Vietnamese agri-exports to UK continue forward motion

Vietnam is boosting exports, especially agro-forestry-fishery products, to the British market thanks largely to a bilateral trade deal.

According to fresh figures from the General Department of Vietnam Customs, Vietnamese agricultural product exports to the United Kingdom have kept rising since the UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA) took effect in May 2021.

Last year, Vietnam’s total goods export turnover from the UK reached $6.34 billion, up 4.6 per cent on-year. In January, the figure sat at nearly $780.5 million, up more than 57 per cent on-year, in which Vietnam earned a trade surplus of nearly $731 million.

Almost all items saw an export value growth, especially agro-forestry-fishery products, such as coffee (218.5 per cent), cashew (61 per cent), pepper (over 60 per cent), fruit and vegetables (56 per cent), and aquatic products (26 per cent).

Last year, Vietnam’s total agro-forestry-fishery export turnover from the UK last year exceeded $770 million, accounting for 12 per cent of its total export turnover from the European nation. Many types of products also enjoyed a big rise in export value in the British market, such as fruit and vegetables (17 per cent, with total value of $24.3 million); cashew (13 per cent, nearly $98 million); and coffee (11 per cent, $101.1 million).

According to the Vietnamese Trade Office to the UK, such impressive export turnover increases are ascribed to the UKVFTA. Under the deal’s commitment, 94 per cent out of almost 550 tariff lines of vegetable and fruits and related by-products have been removed since the deal’s entry into force.

Items with immediate exemption of non-quota import tariffs to the UK market include coffee, rambutan, mango, litchi, longan, dragon fruit, coconut, and pickle. Other items including shrimp, tuna, ground fish, fragrant rice, cassava starch, and other agricultural products will also be exempted from tariffs under quotas.

“In 2024, after the UK joins the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, some Vietnamese products with big potential such as fragrant rice, surimi, tuna, and honey will be able to increase their market share in the UK thanks to more tax-free quotas,” Nguyen Canh Cuong, former trade counsellor of Vietnam in the UK, told VIR.

With the UKVFTA, the UK also provides Vietnam with a quota of supplementary tariffs, with the latter allowed to import free-of-charge a number of supplementary goods volumes into the former for 14 types of goods, including rice and 36 Vietnamese geographical indications to be protected in the UK, such as Ban Me Thuot coffee and Phu Quoc fish sauce.

According to Cuong, during the last decade, British distributors have paid more attention to products made in Vietnam and to Vietnamese suppliers. This is because of good product quality, committed business performance and significant improved infrastructure in Vietnam.

“Many types of products from Vietnam such as seafood, pepper, cashew, coffee, rice, textiles and garments, and footwear products are now available almost in every distribution channel in the UK,” Cuong said, adding the UK is a huge market with an annual average import turnover of $700 billion from many sources worldwide.

However, according to the Vietnamese Trade Office to the UK, in order to boost agro-forestry-fishery exports to the market, exporters from Vietnam need to pay special attention to changes and regulations in the UK where there is an uptrend in consuming organic and environmental-friendly products.

For example, the UK is introducing its Border Target Operating Model in several stages in 2024. This means additional customs rules and checks when exporting goods to the UK. Depending on the types of products businesses export, this may mean more paperwork and/or physical checks at the border.

Vietnam Investment Review