Sanitary standards vital for fruit exports
Fruit exporters have urged growers and business operators to ensure high sanitary standards to protect the industry from effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite the crisis hitting the economy hard, exports of fresh fruit from Thailand are still bearing up as demand from China continues, said Paiboon Wongchotesathit, president of Thai Fresh Fruit Traders and Exporters Association.
But to safeguard the export market Mr Paiboon urged exporters to apply high sanitary standards to ensure shipments -- especially fresh fruit from the eastern region including durian, longan, and mangosteen harvested during the Covid-19 breakout -- are not tainted with the coronavirus.
"If the workers are infected and transmit the virus to customers through droplets on products, the whole export industry will be ruined," Mr Paiboon said.
He asked exporters to make sure workers wear face masks and to supply enough hand gel for food pickers and packers to have their hands cleansed frequently.
He said food exporters are trying to comply with the government's policy.
"Some companies have a policy of firing workers who intend returning home during the Songkran festival," he said.
Operators are worried about a labour shortage as some migrant workers also return to their home countries out of fear of catching Covid-19.
"Some businesses might not have enough experienced workers and they will compete against one another to get more workers," he said.
He said fruit exports, especially durian, will be able to achieve growth this year because Chinese consumers are likely to cut back on travel and import more.
Current durian prices in front of orchards ranges from 145 to 150 baht per kilogramme, higher than last year's rate of 130 to 135 baht/ kg, according to Mr Paiboon.
Three years ago, there were only 300 durian exporters.
Given the fruit's popularity in China, the number of exporters have risen to 1,000 operators.
There are now about 5,000 labourers working in the fruit export industry, most of them migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia.