Fresh lychees from Bac Giang are now available in some supermarkets in the United States, priced at 14-15 USD per pound, which is approximately 780,000 Vietnamese dong per kilogram.

On June 21st, at noon in the U.S., the first batch of fresh lychees from Bac Giang province was put on sale in supermarkets like Hong Kong, Tan Binh, Viet Hoa, Linda’s Tropical Fruits, and Ca Mau in Houston, Texas. The retail price for customers is 14-15 USD per pound, or 140 USD for an 11-pound (5 kg) package, equivalent to 3.2 million Vietnamese dong.

These are the first fresh lychees from Vietnam this season, weighing 1.08 tons, to be sold in this market, according to the Vietnamese Trade Office in the U.S. The products are supplied by the Global Food Import-Export Company based in Luc Ngan and imported by LNS International Corporation.

In the past, Vietnamese lychees were exported to the U.S. under the frozen goods category. Since 2020, the Vietnamese Trade Office in the U.S. has recognized the demand for fresh lychees and has been working to connect exporters and importers from both countries to collaborate with the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to understand the process of exporting fresh lychees.

However, in recent years, attempts to send fresh lychees to the U.S. have faced challenges and were not cleared through customs and thus not allowed into the market due to certain inspection regulations. Last year, LNS also attempted to export lychees, but Vietnam and the U.S. could not agree on packaging standards in time.

The process of exporting fresh lychees to the U.S. is not straightforward. Lychees from Luc Ngan that meet the standards are purchased and selected by Global Food, then individually cut and processed using Israeli technology to maintain freshness during transportation.

The lychees are packed in baskets of 11 pounds (5 kg) each and transported from Bac Giang to Noi Bai International Airport for the first flight to Tan Son Nhat International Airport. From there, the lychees are taken to the irradiation center in Son Son to eliminate microorganisms and insects. After this process is completed, the lychees are transported back to Tan Son Nhat International Airport for air transportation to the U.S.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Kim Huyen (Jolie Nguyen), Founder and Chairwoman of LNS, stated that the entire process from when the lychees are packaged in Bac Giang until they are displayed on shelves in the U.S. takes about 5 days. “The lychees maintain good quality upon arrival in the U.S. and can remain on supermarket shelves for at least 7 days while staying fresh,” Ms. Huyen said.

After the success of the first batch, the company has placed an order for the next batch – 8 tons of lychees – to supply supermarkets in Houston (Texas), California, Seattle (Washington), Portland (Oregon), and other locations. “Following the success of the initial trial batch, we plan to import another 3-4 batches of fresh lychees for this year’s season, with each batch weighing 8-10 tons,” Ms. Huyen said.

Lychees are not scarce in the U.S., being imported from Mexico, Australia, and the two domestic lychee-growing states, Hawaii and Florida. However, Vietnamese lychees are considered to be “distinctive.” “Vietnamese lychees have a strong aroma, thick flesh, small seeds, a crisp sweetness, and less water content. Other varieties available in the U.S. have more water and a slightly tart sweetness,” Ms. Huyen evaluated.

In the crop season of 2023, Bac Giang is planning to export approximately 96,000 tons of lychees, accounting for about 53% of the total production and showing a 15.2% increase compared to the 2022 crop season. The main export markets include China, the EU, the United States, Australia, Japan, South Korea, certain Southeast Asian countries, and some countries in the Middle East region.

However, Vietnam only has one irradiation center in Ho Chi Minh City that has been granted approval by the U.S. authorities to process imports into the country. This leads to prolonged logistical processes and additional costs. “To get the products into U.S. supermarkets, for every unit spent on purchasing the lychees, we have to spend two units on all the logistics costs,” Ms. Huyen stated.

The Vietnam Trade Office branch in Houston, Texas emphasizes that for successful large and stable export shipments, the roles of import partners, distributors, and transportation services are crucial. Besides the value of the brands, businesses need to conduct in-depth market research, ensure professionalism, and possess experience in exporting such shipments.

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