Vietnam, the world's third biggest exporter of rice, exported an estimated 4.88 million tons of rice in 2016, earning some 2.2 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year decrease of 25.8 percent in volume and 21.2 percent in value, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) on Thursday.
Last year, the country failed to meet the earlier target set by Vietnam Food Association to sell abroad 6.5 million tons of rice, presenting the lowest level in both export volume and value since 2012.
Tran Thanh Nam, MARD deputy minister told local Vietnam News online newspaper on Thursday that in 2017, free trade agreements would help open more markets for Vietnamese rice, but would also bring challenges due to lack of competitiveness, especially in terms of quality and branding positioning, compared to competitors.
Despite attributing the failure of meeting expectations of rice export last year to market difficulties, Nam said, "It was a lesson for enterprises. Previously, we mainly focused on quantity. This should be changed now. Enterprises must establish their own material zones and focus on improving quality of their rice to international standards."
Echoing Nam, Le Van Banh, head of the MARD's Department of Processing and Trade for Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Products and Salt Production, emphasized the importance of developing brands for rice products.
Banh said that it would help raise the competitiveness of Vietnamese rice at home and abroad.
Meanwhile, Pham Thai Binh, director of local rice exporter, said consumers both at home and abroad were becoming more and more willing to pay more for safer products.
To improve the competitiveness of Vietnamese rice, farmers and businesses must join hands to create large-scale rice fields, apply modern farming techniques and mechanize production, Binh proposed.
In order to remove obstacles for local rice traders and help boost rice exports, Vietnamese minister of industry and trade on Wednesday decided to abolish a regulation that capped the maximum number of the national rice exporters at less than 150 and limited areas suitable for building rice processing facilities for exports in 20 localities nationwide.