Vietnamese food exporters removed from US list as new regulations take effect

More than 1,000 Vietnamese companies have been removed from the list of companies allowed to export products to the US for failing to extend their registration. Many of them were apparently not aware of or understand new, strict regulations from the US.

“We have been exporting rice to the US for three years. But we have had no contract this year. With the changes in requirements on food hygiene, maybe US importers have temporarily stopped purchases,” said Pham Thai Binh, director of Trung An Rice Company.

In the last seven months, the US FDA has released 32 warnings, as Vietnamese enterprises had not caught up with changes in the policies.

In December 2016, 1,845 food factories in Vietnam registered with FDA to export their products to the US. But in January 2017, the figure dropped to 806.

Mark Gillin, vice chair of AmCham Vietnam, said under the new regulation, all registered factories must extend registrations once every two years, commencing from 2016.

Over 1,000 companies in Vietnam did not fulfill procedures for extension and they been excluded from the list of companies allowed to export products to the US.

He warned that the lack of understanding about new regulations may lead to a significant decrease in Vietnam’s export turnover of farm produce and food to the US

As one of the US’s 15 largest farm produce partners, in 2016, Vietnam’s exports of fish, crab and shrimp alone brought $1.4 billion.

However, it has become more difficult to export products to the market as the component regulations of FSMA (The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act) are now in effect. It was described as the most sweeping reform of food safety laws in more than 70 years in the US.

Many delegations from the FDA visited seafood processing factories in Vietnam last May and June under inspection programs and they tried to learn about enterprises’ understanding about FSMA.

FSMA focuses on shifts not just tackling food contamination but preventing food contamination. The regulation is concerned with end-of-line quality checks, but also examines in detail the food production chain from farm to table.

The law also requires importers to join the Foreign Supplier Verification Program. This means that importers must examine imports more carefully.

“FSMA is a law. It is not voluntary standard. If you don’t obey FSMA, you won’t have the opportunity to bring your products to the US market,” said Nguyen Huy from Bureau Veritas.

Experts said that developed markets were expanding technical barriers against food imports. A report from Marshall business school in late 2016 showed that non-tariff measures have been increasing and getting more complicated.

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