Domestic agricultural producers must boost exports to help reduce the country’s trade deficit, said economist Pham Do Chi.
Chi said if the sector did not increase production and foreign sales, the country’s trade deficit would reach US$15 billion this year.
According to the General Statistics Office, in the first four months of this year, the country’s trade deficit reached about $5 billion, up nearly 6 per cent against the same period last year. There were $4 billion worth of imports from mainland China alone.
Chi said the quality of Vietnam’s rice this year was better than that exported by Thailand to Hong Kong. Furthermore, Vietnamese rice was cheaper, he said.
Chi added that Vietnamese rice had taken an increasing slice of the Hong Kong market and was making in-roads into the coastal areas of mainland China where incomes were relatively high. He suggested Vietnamese producers focus on exporting white rice to this market. He said lower quality rice should be exported to the Philippines, India and Africa.
According to the Agromonitor agency, in March this year, Vietnam exported 60,000 tonnes of rice to China. It said Chinese firms were looking to purchase more competitively priced rice from Vietnam. However, he said Vietnamese firms had encountered payment problems with exports to China.
Chi said exports should be supported by banks. In addition, more research on demand in China should be conducted, he added.
However, Dr Tran Du Lich from the National Advisory Council for Monetary and Financial Policies said that though exports had increased they should be considered in terms of output requirements and the selling price.
Vietnam’s farm produce was mostly exported to its neighbours. About 80 per cent of Vietnamese dragon fruits was exported to China alone. However, he said it was important to diversify exports to ensure price stability.
Japan and South Korea were also major importers of Vietnamese agricultural products. Pham Hai Long, general director of Agrex Sai Gon Foodstuffs Joint Stock Company, said the three main reasons for the popularity of Vietnamese agricultural exports were taste, cleanliness and attractiveness. Meanwhile, seafood enterprises have been now checking radioactivity levels in raw materials for processing.
Long said orders at his company in the first two months of this year had increased by 30-40 per cent. Helping to boost exports was the country’s favourable climate, he added.
Long said upheaval in the global economy and natural disasters had helped to boost exports to neighbouring markets such as Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The Ministry of Industry and Trade reported that in March, 45,000 tonnes of rice were exported to the Philippines.
In the first quarter of this year, rice exports increased by 500,000 tonnes compared with the first three months of last year.