|Hundreds of trucks wait at Tan Thanh-Po Chai Border Gate for customs inspection.
Truong said the Tan Thanh-Po Chai Border Gate was to remain open until 9.30 pm, two and a half hours longer than usual to let in some 370 container trucks and their drivers, who were still waiting for customs clearance by October 23 afternoon on Vietnam’s side. The gate would open from 6am per usual.
Chinese customs said they would make an exception and allow Vietnamese trucks to cross over to China before undergoing inspection to hasten the process. They also asked Vietnamese businesses to complete all necessary papers in advance and strictly follow China Customs’ regulations on contraband, especially the ban on fresh pork. The situation was expected to be resolved by tomorrow, according to local customs officials.
In the last couple of days, the province has seen a sharp increase in the number of trucks, most of them transporting dragon fruits, making their way to the border as Vietnamese farmers completed their harvest. Thanks to cooperation from both sides, customs agencies have been able to inspect and clear 150-200 trucks per day, said Truong.
Another factor was increased scrutiny from the Chinese side.
"It takes six to seven minutes to inspect a truck now as compared to around two minutes prior to the change," said Nguyen Quoc Hai, deputy-director of the province's department of industry and trade.
"It has slowed down the process significantly as well as created a large backlog of trucks waiting to cross over."
Since May last year, China has imposed much stricter import regulations on fruit from Thailand and Vietnam, asking for prior clearance papers from sanitary control agencies as well as certificates of origin.
Vu Thi Nguyet, the owner of a Vietnamese fruit export company, said Chinese customs would inspect every single truck now.
She said the worst is yet to come as the watermelon harvest is just around the corner.
"Chinese customs ban the use of straw to help preserve fruits. This will make it harder for Vietnamese exporters because traditionally we have always used straw to help cushion our watermelons during transport. For the time being, we do not know of an alternative to straw," Nguyet said.
Experts have long pointed out that a lack of planning and poor infrastructure were major hurdles Vietnamese agriculture must overcome. Vietnamese businesses and farmers are often slow to catch up with the Chinese market's developments, which has resulted in occasional over-supply and poor product quality.
Tran Thanh Hai, deputy head of the department of import/export under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said the immediate priority is to keep Vietnamese businesses and farmers up-to-date on China's latest regulations on sanitation, packaging, origin of product and quality control.
The ministry would also start talks with their Chinese counterpart to allow Vietnamese goods to cross other border gates such as Chi Ma, Na Hinh and Binh Nghi to ease the pressure on the Tan Thanh-Po Chai Border Gate.
In another development, Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue asked for Yunnan province's cooperation in resolving the matter in a meeting with the province's deputy party chief in Hanoi on October 23.
Chinese ambassador to Vietnam Xiong Bo said a sudden spike in the amount of agricultural products coming from Vietnam was not expected during this time of the year and Chinese local authorities have been instructed to resolve the issue.