Vietnamese consumers were shocked to learn of the information released by a Chinese TV channel earlier this week revealing that Chinese gingers in Weifang city are grown with a highly toxic pesticide called aldicarb. Imported Chinese ginger has been widely sold in Vietnam for years.
Chinese ginger is bigger and looks fresher and cleaner than the locally grown version, attributes which have helped it become popular with customers, despite the higher prices, according to small traders at markets across Ho Chi Minh City.
Around 10 tons of ginger is transported from China to the wholesale market of Hoc Mon on a daily basis, before being distributed to markets citywide and neighboring localities, according to Hanh, a wholesaler.
Hanh said the market currently sources only two kinds of ginger: one from Buon Ma Thuot, and mostly from China.
Domestic ginger fetches around VND20,000 a kilogram, while the Chinese spice is sold at VND30,000 a kg, according to traders.
China’s list of food scandals has recently grown with the news that farmers in Weifang city of Shandong province have been overusing the pesticide aldicarb in growing ginger for years.
The pesticide is highly toxic, and is not approved for use on any crops but cotton, tobacco, peanuts, roses and sweet potatoes, according to an investigative report by China Central Television (CCTV).
Extended consumption of the chemical can cause dizziness, blurred vision, nausea and respiratory failure, while only 50 milligrams of aldicarb is enough to kill a person weighing 50kg, the report said.
Cheap import prices
Despite its high retail prices, Chinese ginger is in fact imported at throwaway prices, according to data from the customs agency.
The spice is imported at only VND2,000 – VND3,000 a kg, and enjoys a zero import duty as ginger is not included in the list of commodities subject to VAT tax.
Tran Thanh Phong, a Chinese ginger importer and distributor, said many Chinese businesses in Shandong are still offering to export the products at very low prices.
“Even the highest quality products fetch only VND9,000 a kg,” Phong said.
Phong added that the cheapest Chinese ginger still looks better than the Vietnamese spice, leading to the fact that local traders have increased their imports of foreign products.
“There are up to 250 tons of Chinese ginger officially brought into the city on a monthly basis,” he said.
Under current regulations, officially imported products have to pass quality and hygiene tests by customs agencies before they are distributed in Vietnam.
“However, those brought to the country via the borders with China can dodge the checks,” traders said.
(Tuoi Tre News)