One ton of Vietnamese red-fleshed lychee (early-ripening lychee) has just been imported by TT Meridian Company into the UK, becoming the first official quota of lychee from Vietnam to arrive in the UK this year.
According to Mr. Thai Tran, CEO of TT Meridian Company, a company specializing in the distribution of lychee and Vietnamese agricultural products in the UK, this year the company has imported red-fleshed lychee for the first time to take advantage of the early ripening characteristic of this lychee, which is about one month earlier than lychee from Mexico and China that are currently available in the UK market.
Mr. Thai stated that the batch of red-fleshed lychee will be distributed to Asian supermarkets and the local market. It is expected that the company will import from 3 to 5 tons of lychee to the UK every week, depending on consumer demand.
According to Mr. Thai, TT Meridian imported red-fleshed lychee before lychee from Mexico and China was harvested and imported to the UK to exploit the market early and create an opportunity for Vietnamese lychee with good quality and a sweet and fragrant taste to reach and win over consumers in the UK.
Notably, the red-fleshed lychee products distributed in the UK market this year feature packaging with the image of the red flag with a yellow star of Vietnam. This is intended to help UK consumers recognize the national brand, making a strong impression that this lychee is a unique specialty of Vietnam.
Mr. Thai stated that starting this year, TT Meridian will use Vietnamese product packaging featuring the image of the red flag with a yellow star to build and promote the Vietnam brand as a significant producer and exporter of agricultural products worldwide, helping consumers efficiently and quickly identify Vietnamese products on supermarket shelves in the UK.
Mr. Thai mentioned that the initiative to identify the Vietnamese brand through the image of the red flag with a yellow star is one of the efforts of TT Meridian and its partners in Vietnam, including Kim Bien Fruit Processing Cooperative (Bac Giang), to innovate and respond to the continuously changing market demands as well as the habits and behaviours of consumers.
TT Meridian’s CEO shared that, to ensure the freshness and quality of Vietnamese fruits, the company has set a goal to apply the Just-in-Time process (a process of supplying products with the right quantity, time, and location according to customer requirements) in the import of fresh Vietnamese fruits this year. According to this process, the entire process from harvesting in Vietnamese orchards to displaying the product in supermarkets in the UK will take only 36 hours, including packaging and transportation from Vietnam, customs clearance, and distribution to retailers in the UK.
Mr. Thai believes that the demand for Vietnamese lychee in the UK is increasing due to its excellent quality and the short lychee season (consumers take the opportunity to buy before the season ends), as well as cultural exchange activities between the two countries, the trade promotion efforts of management agencies, and the marketing activities of exporting companies.
According to Mr. Nguyen Canh Cuong, Commercial Counsellor, Vietnam Trade Office in the UK, a major challenge for the export of Vietnamese lychee to the UK is product preservation because of the unique characteristics of lychee, which must be consumed within 3 days of harvest to ensure freshness. Therefore, exporting companies need to master post-harvest preservation technology.
Compared to similar imported products and other tropical fruits, Vietnamese lychee currently has a relatively high selling price in the UK (15 pounds/kg, equivalent to 435,000 VND). Mr. Cuong stated that the high price is partly because this type of fruit must be transported by air, incurring a freight cost of 3–4 pounds/kg to ensure freshness. Mr. Cuong believes that mastering preservation technology will allow exporting companies to transport lychee by sea, reducing the product’s price.
Mr. Thai Tran also agrees that Vietnamese fruit producers and exporters need to focus on minimizing logistics costs and intermediaries, increasing efficiency through process improvement, and implementing advanced production methods to reduce costs and enhance competitiveness in the context of high inflation in the UK, where product price is a major concern for importers, distributors, and consumers.