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Freshfel Europe calls on EU and Japan to build fresh produce trade

Interview with Philippe Binard, general secretary of Freshfel Europe

Philippe Binard © Freshfel Europe

 

Freshfel Europe is calling on EU and Japanese authorities to build fresh produce trade on the outcome of the new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement. The European Commission hosted an online seminar on 19-20 April between the EU and Japan to facilitate discussions on how to boost trade for EU agriculture products on the Japanese market. The new EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement is now fully in force and it is the right moment to evaluate the state-of-play and future outlook of the agreement. Freshfel Europe voiced the views and expectations of the European fresh fruit and vegetables sector on the many pending dossiers and on missed opportunities to grow business within the new agreement. 

Despite the coming into force of the new EU-Japan Economic Agreement and the positive outlook resulting from the visit of Commissioner Hogan in Tokyo in May 2019, no significant progress has been made to new market access to Japan for the export of high quality EU fresh fruit and vegetables to the high value Japanese market of 127 million inhabitants. This was the key message of Freshfel Europe General Delegate Philippe Binard at the EU-Japan seminar entitled ‘How the EU ensures the highest quality for its agriculture export’. Binard said: “Despite all the efforts from the EU and more than 10 years of negotiations and clear interest for Japanese traders to import high quality, safe and sustainable fresh produce from the EU, too many applications for market access to the Japanese authorities have not been concluded yet.” 

Today EU exports of fresh produce to Japan total less than 10,000 tons, representing only a small percentage of the total 2.4m tons of imports into Japan from third countries. Binard said: “Multiple market access applications are pending ranging from Italian and Greek kiwifruit, Belgian pears and tomatoes, Portuguese and Hungarian cherries, and persimmons from Spain. Many other provisions of existing protocols also need to be revised to remove pre-clearance, broaden the scope of protocols to more varieties or substitute methyl-bromide treatment by more environmentally friendly systems approaches.” 

According to Freshfel, it is now time to deliver the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement and speed up negotiations to open new market opportunities. EU fresh produce represents a seal of quality, reliability and diversity for Japanese consumers. On the occasion of the UN International Year of Fruit and Vegetables 2021 authorities should prioritise fresh produce in their market access negotiations and urgently unlock pending hurdles. The EU fruit and vegetables sector exports to 140 destinations around the world based on international standards and strict EU regulatory environment. EU growers and exporters are demonstrating their expertise to handle high quality and safe produce, brining competitiveness and mastering logistic skills to access the most sophisticated markets. Binard concluded: “Under the new bilateral agreement, the momentum today should not be missed. The EU and Japan should work hard in the coming months to build trade on the new business environment of the Agreement and secure that Japanese trade and consumers can enjoy the high quality and safety of European fresh produce in their daily healthy diet.”

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Trade license procedures temporarily lifted in Myanmar

Trade license procedures temporarily lifted in Myanmar © Werner Bayer Source Flickr (Public Domain)

Source: Flickr (Public Domain)

 

Following the coup by the Myanmar military, agricultural trade has been crippled due to country-wide peaceful protests in opposition to the military’s actions and the military’s increasingly violent response. To tackle shortages, the country’s Ministry of Commerce is waiving import and export license requirements for select agricultural commodities from March 8-April 9, 2021. While a lack of drivers to move the more than 10,000 stuck containers at a major port remains the largest single barrier to trade.

The commodities temporarily exempted from export/import license procedures include garlic, onion and fertiliser.

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China to open new trade hub in South China Sea

China to open new trade hub in South China Sea

 

In June 2020, China’s central government announced its economic masterplan to develop the south China island of Hainan into a Free Trade Port (FTP), according to a report by GAIN. The advertised zero-tariffs for imported products processed inside the FTP may lead to future opportunities for imports of fresh produce. The plan’s overarching goal is by 2050 to make Hainan – China’s smallest province with a population of about 10 million – into another major economic-growth hub in South China to complement neighbouring Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong. In order to realise this ambitious vision, the government plans to introduce the appropriate mix of infrastructure and policy conditions to stimulate trade and investment, especially in high-tech, tourism, and other service industries.

Although not specifically mentioned in the masterplan, Hainan authorities are interested in developing the island’s food processing industry as part of this broader economic initiative. In particular, the local government is looking to attract the needed investment to expand and diversify the island’s relatively small food processing industry, most of which is currently focused on seafood and fruit processing. One of the advertised selling points that the government hopes will attract investment and trade is lower tax rates and zero-tariffs before 2025. Imported agricultural (and other) products that undergo a 30-percent value addition in Hainan food processing facilities can enter mainland China duty free, though still subject to the value-added and consumption taxes.  In contrast, imported agricultural products, such as seafood, that are processed in other free trade zones or bonded areas elsewhere in China are usually re-exported since these products are still subject to the same tariffs that apply to direct imports.

TAGS: China, trade, hub, Hainan

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EU imposes retaliatory tariffs on US imports

EU imposes retaliatory tariffs on US imports
Photo: European Commission

The European Commission has imposed additional tariffs on a list of US products following the WTO ruling against US subsidies for Boeing. The move, announced on November 9th, includes an additional levy on imports from the US of citrus, dates and walnuts.

Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “We have made clear all along that we want to settle this long-running issue. Regrettably, due to lack of progress with the US, we had no other choice but to impose these countermeasures. The EU is consequently exercising its legal rights under the WTO’s recent decision. We call on the US to agree to both sides dropping existing countermeasures with immediate effect, so we can quickly put this behind us. Removing these tariffs is a win-win for both sides, especially with the pandemic wreaking havoc on our economies. We now have an opportunity to reboot our transatlantic cooperation and work together towards our shared goals.”

The new tariffs came into effect on November 10th.

 

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South Africa’s orange exports set to rise 8%

South Africa’s 2019/20 orange crop is projected to grow by 1% to 1.6 million tons, according to CGA data. The increase is attributed to good rainfall in the main growing regions, the rise in area planted, better water management techniques by farmers, and new plantings of high yielding and late-maturing varieties. Exports are expected to be up 8% to 1.28 million tons this campaign, thanks to the larger crop, better fruit quality, and rise in demand for sources of Vitamin C to fight COVID-19.  The EU remains South Africa’s largest export market for oranges, accounting for 38% of total shipments. However, exports to Asia and the Middle East have grown steadily over the years due to the industry’s focus on growing these markets.

Exports to the US are expected to continue, albeit with a gradual shift from oranges to soft citrus exports, as South African farmers supplying the US market have been re-planting their orchards with soft citrus in response to market preferences and the higher premium received in the US. Indeed, South Africa’s orange exports to the US dropped in 2019 due to this shift in consumer preference.

Source: TDM
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Efforts made to boost Australian-Vietnam trade 

Efforts made to boost Australian-Vietnam trade 

 

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions have been placed on Australian produce entering Vietnam. However, following a meeting last week between Vietnam’s Minister of Industry and Trade, Tran Tuan Anh, and Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Simon Birmingham, Vietnam has vowed to remove the obstacles, according to Vietnam Plus. The two ministers agreed on ways to work together to restore supply chains of the major partners.

An agreement was reached regarding the resumption of shipping and airfreight between the two countries, with great effort to be placed on diversifying supply chains so they are less dependent on certain suppliers. Anh said in order to enhance bilateral cooperation, the two countries ought to utilise existing free trade agreements, as well as strengthen trade promotions and partnerships. Vietnam has requested fast-tracked access to the Australian markets for Vietnamese exports of fresh fruits such as passion fruit and dragon fruit.

Despite the obstacles, trade between the partners was up 13.4% in the first three months of 2020, surpassing US$2 billion. Australian exports to Vietnam rose 15% to almost US$1.1 billion, while Vietnam’s exports to Australia rose 11.6% to US$924.4 million.

Photo: Vietnam Plus.

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Orange prices remain high amidst strong demand for fruit and juice

Reduction in European orange farming

The current Coronavirus pandemic appears to have had a relatively small impact on the EU’s 2019/20 harvest, coming as it did at the end of the campaign. The total crop is projected to reach 6.2 million tons this season, according to data released by the EU Commission. This volume represents a 5% drop from the previous campaign, due to smaller yields. In recent weeks, demand has risen across the world for both oranges and orange juice as consumers look for sources of vitamin C to remain healthy. The sharp increase in retail sales have more than offset the drop in the foodservice channel. The increased demand has driven prices up both globally and in the EU.

Global logistics problems, particularly with shipments to China, meant that EU fresh orange exports were markedly down in March 2020 (-13% y-o-y). The increased local demand is also likely to have a dampening effect on exports.  Imports to the EU during the 2019/20 campaign until the end of March were down 20% from the previous season, although recent months have seen the gap between the two campaigns close somewhat.

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Agreement opens opportunities for US fruit in Japan

The US-Japan Trade Agreement (USJTA) came into force on January 1, 2020. Once USJTA is fully implemented, up to 90% of all US food and agricultural products imported into Japan will be duty free or receive preferential tariff access. Japan is a key trading partner for the US. In 2018, the US exported $318 million of fresh fruit to Japan, making Japan the 4th largest overseas market for US fresh fruit. The US was the source of one third of Japan’s fresh fruit imports and the leading supplier of fresh oranges, lemons, grapes and cherries. Japan will apply a seasonal US-specific safeguard for oranges starting at 26,435 tons. The safeguard only applies to products imported between December 1 and March 31. If the safeguard volume is exceeded, tariffs on US orange exports will increase for the remainder of that period. The safeguard tariff is 28% in Years 1-3 and 20% in Years 4-6.  The safeguard will be eliminated in Year 7 (2025).

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The European Packaging Forum: Congress & Get-together on May 14, 2020

The European Packaging Forum: Congress & Get-together on May 14, 2020

The European Packaging Forum is a precisely tailored congress event for the fruit and vegetable industry, focusing on marketing, sustainability, traceability, consumer and trade acceptance, innovative solutions, logistics, protection and functionality, hygiene and law. These are the topics that the experts from all stages of the value chain will be discussing on 14 May 2020 in Düsseldorf at Hotel Nikko Düsseldorf. This will be followed by the DFHV Annual Conference on 15 May 2020. 

The organisers – Agrarmarkt Informations-Gesellschaft (AMI) and Fruchthandel Magazin – will be addressing a central topic in the sector, which is not only being strongly discussed in the entire value chain, but also in society. A press release stated: “Since the recent pictures of dead whales and polluted seas make this topic difficult to be ignored. We want to tackle the challenges and take a close look at them in order to discuss and sketch out alternatives and solutions with the competent experts in the end and thus give the industry new impetus. We want to bring together the most important market partners in the European sector in order to objectify the discussion and jointly develop new ideas and strategies for contemporary solutions and offers for the entire value chain.”

Simultaneous translation is provided of the plenary sessions in German and English.

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EU agrifood exports break records

EU agrifood exports break records

 

Despite impressive volumes of EU agrifood exports in the first half of 2019, the growth increased even further in September 2019 to a record +18% compared to the same month in 2018, reaching  €13.06 billion. Agrifood imports also increased to €9.32 billion – 6% above the level of September 2018. As a result, the monthly agrifood trade surplus increased to €3.7 billion – the biggest monthly EU agrifood trade surplus ever recorded. The highest increases in monthly export values (September 2019 compared to September 2018) were recorded for China (+€509 million, +55.4%), the US (+€305 million, +15.6%) and Japan (+€162 million, +30.6%), while exports decreased most to Hong Kong (-€37 million, -12.1%), Algeria (-€19 million, -9.6%) and Egypt (-€14 million, -9.9%).

The product with the greatest increase in import value was recorded for tropical fruit (+€128 million, +13%).The value of September 2019 EU agri-food imports compared to September 2018 increased most from Ukraine (+€108 million, +27%), South Africa (+€72 million, +25%) and Chile (+€48 million, +29%). The value of imports went down most from the US (-€106 million, -12%), the Russian Federation (-€17 million, 13%) and Ghana (-€15 million, – 11%).