China’s zero-COVID policies are locking down Chinese cities and putting air travel on hold for the second time. In addition, they are cutting off trade routes across its land borders, which are important lifelines for farmers and merchants in the area.
In Vietnam, a lot of trucks with dragon fruit, jackfruit, watermelons, and other things in them have been stuck at the border for weeks.
Chinese authorities at the end of last year stopped or slowed down operations at a number of airport gates because they needed to keep COVID-19 from getting out.
Some traders cut their losses because the fruit was going bad.
For one-tenth of the price they would have sold for on the other side, Nguyen Ngoc Phuong Thao, who only sells to China, bought five truckloads of dragon fruit at home. The businesswoman took three trucks to a sea port and paid more to get the perishable goods to Shanghai quickly. In her words: “Selling it at home was like throwing it away.”
“I’m so tired.”
There is a Vietnamese farmer named Tran Minh Son, who grows crops. Others still haven’t arrived. Lung Van Nhien and the boxes of jackfruit he was hired to drive to China have been sitting in a parking lot near the border for the last eight days. If he can’t get thru, he’ll have to find a place to dump all the fruit, he said.
For Vietnam’s farmers and traders, not being able to sell their goods to Chinese people is very bad.
If you want to think about dragon fruit, for instance, you can think about that. According to data from Vietnam’s trade and agriculture ministries, the red-skinned fruit will be worth $1 billion in 2021. That’s almost 20 times what it was worth in 2010. People in China buy about 80% of those goods from the U.S. Two decades ago, the Southeast Asian country only made about 27,000 metric tons of the fruit a year. In recent years, the country has made about 1.4 million tons a year, with many farmers switching over from traditional rice farming.
A lot of people in Australia and Europe are also buying dragon fruit from Vietnam, but their demand isn’t as great as the demand in Vietnam itself. Farmer Truong Minh Trung says that a year’s sales to these markets is the same as two or three days’ worth of shipments to China.
China blocked trade, so “the dragon fruit that ripens now is all gone,” he said.
Beijing has strayed from the rest of the world in its goal to keep a Zero-Covid even as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads around the world. This is how it used to be: Vietnam was also a zero-Covid country. But last year, the virus changed and it became more difficult to stop the spread of the disease. In late December, the country’s trade ministry said that China’s actions, such as halting border-gate activities and stopping fruit imports, were too much for the country.
Covid-19 has been found on the Chinese side of the border, and there are fears that the virus could get into China thru Vietnamese cargo. The spokesman for the Foreign Ministry says this:
The name of the person is Wang Wenbin.
When asked about the border disruptions on January 4, China said that “China adopts necessary COVID-19 protocols in light of the global COVID-19 situation with a responsible attitude toward the life and health of both Chinese and foreign citizens.”
There are strict rules about Zero-Covid at the Winter Olympics in China to stop the spread of Omicron. A “closed loop” system and a ban on shouting are just two of the rules that will be in place. WSJ explains how some of these rules will work, and why, even with all of the rules in place, an outbreak could still derail competitions. Fabrizio Bensch took the picture.
People who work on the border say that some places have now reopened, but the weeks-long backlog will take a long time to clear, because there are so many cars and trucks. Some of them are cooking pork and boiled cabbage, or bok choy, on fires on the side of their trucks to keep warm. In some cases, authorities in Vietnam have stopped new trucks from coming near until the pileup has gone down.
There’s no way to know for sure that China won’t do this again.
Cities, provinces, and sea ports in China check not just people but also fruit for the coronavirus, which can cause a lot of sickness. Dragon fruit imports were banned in a city in the Guangxi area last month because three batches of the fruit and their packaging had been found to have the pathogen, the city’s government says. A county in Anhui province in China has stopped all business with imported fruit after two batches of Vietnamese dragon fruit were found to be the same, it said. Longan, a fleshy lychee-like fruit from Thailand, was screened by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol earlier this month. People who sold, bought, or visited stores were quarantined.
If any country knows how to do China’s Zero-Covid Policies, it’s Vietnam. Before September, it was one of the world’s strictest adherents to the method. It used test-trace-quarantine to keep the virus out of the country. This changed: The country’s economy took a hit because businesses closed down, and because the Delta variant was the most-transmittable strain, it was more difficult to catch every case. The country’s vaccination rate, which had been one of the lowest in Southeast Asia until this summer, has started to rise. The zero-Covid phase in Vietnam has come to an end.
Even tho there are still many cases of COVID-19, no major cities are on lockdown. It’s been a long time since Ho Chi Minh City was put on lockdown last September, but now schools are back in session and karaoke bars are in full swing.
But tropical fruit farmers are having a hard time. Tran Kim Thuc, the head of a group of 17 dragon-fruit farmers, said that because the border with China was so crowded, merchants had stopped buying dragon fruit in recent weeks. Farmers were selling the fruit to people in their own country for as little as 10 cents a pound, he said. This is how many pounds a kilogram is: 2.2 pounds
As a farmer, 48-year-old Tran Minh Son was giving fish or composting the fruit that didn’t get eaten. I’m so tired of everything.