Since the first official export of Ri6 durian to the UK in early May 2023, TT Meridian, a company specialising in distributing Vietnamese agricultural products in the UK, has been regularly importing 3-4 tons of this specialty fruit every week. This indicates that Vietnamese Ri6 durian is being well-received by consumers in the UK.
TT Meridian, having conducted extensive research on Vietnam’s strong fruit varieties with export potential to the UK market, particularly special fruits, sees promising prospects for durian exports to this market.
Mr. Thai Tran, the CEO of TT Meridian, pointed out that with a 0% preferential tax rate under the UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA), Vietnamese durian has a significant price advantage compared to similar imported products, which are subject to an 8% tax. This competitive pricing is of particular importance in a high-inflation environment, as it is the primary concern for importers, distributors, and consumers in the UK.
With a quality level almost equivalent to varieties like Mongthon from Thailand or Musang King from Malaysia, Vietnamese Ri6 durians, which are harvested earlier and have a lower price, can effectively compete in the UK market, as confirmed by Mr. Thai Tran. The weekly import volume is being consumed very well, indicating the potential for maintaining a stable and long-term export market to the UK.
Mr. Thai Tran also stated that the UK market consists of various customer segments and Vietnamese durian can target not only Asian customers but also producers of durian-derived products such as ice cream, yoghurt, and durian beverages. He emphasized that the current price advantage opens opportunities for Vietnamese durian to reach and captivate consumers and distributors in the UK.
Mr. Nguyen Canh Cuong, Commercial Counselor of the Vietnam Trade Office in the UK, also sees a positive response to Ri6 durian, with import quantities being well received by distributors and retailers over the past month. This is an encouraging sign, indicating a favourable outlook for Vietnamese special durian expanding its market share in the UK in the future.
Mr. Nguyen Canh Cuong stressed that despite being introduced to the UK market for the first time, where consumers are familiar with durian from Thailand and Malaysia, Vietnamese durian is being embraced due to its distinct flavor and competitive pricing. He pointed out that, in addition to the Vietnamese community, the much larger Hong Kong (China) community represents a significant potential customer base for durian, as well as other tropical fruits from Vietnam.
Despite the initial positive signs in the market, Mr. Thai Tran mentioned that there are still many challenges for Vietnamese durian to establish a firm presence in this competitive market.
One of the obstacles faced by fruit exporters is the lengthy procedure for obtaining origin certificates from Vietnamese authorities. This requirement is mandatory to enjoy tax benefits under the UKVFTA. The process of obtaining these certificates currently consumes a considerable amount of time, labour, and expenses, as companies must physically apply for them. Mr. Thai Tran also highlighted that this poses a disadvantage for fresh fruit exports in general, and durian, in particular, which must be transported by air on the same day of harvest to ensure product quality. He suggested that obtaining origin certificates electronically and conducting transactions online would greatly facilitate the process.
Mr. Nguyen Canh Cuong agreed that time is crucial in fruit exports and suggested that state management agencies should support businesses by shortening the inspection time, the time required for issuing origin certificates, and ensuring the entire process, from harvesting to the laboratory, customs, and border checks, can be completed within half a day to meet the same-day flight schedules while preserving product freshness.