Vietnam raises value bar in ASEAN rice export race with Thailand

By Dat Nguyen   May 5, 2022 | 09:30 pm PT
Vietnam raises value bar in ASEAN rice export race with Thailand
Bags of World's Best Rice Contest winner Vietnam's ST25 are seen in a shop in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
With Thailand hot on its heels, Vietnam is seeking to maintain its top spot as rice exporter to several Southeast Asian countries by transitioning to higher value varieties.

With a combined population of nearly 700 million, the region imports many agriculture items from Vietnam, with the Philippines and Indonesia being the biggest buyers of rice, Vietnam’s ASEAN commercial counselors said at a forum Thursday.

Data from the Ministry of Industry and Trade shows exporters have increased shipments of the high-quality 0-5 percent broken rice to Philippines and Indonesia from 35 percent to 75 percent.

They are focusing on exporting higher quality products to Indonesia since its per capita income has reached nearly $4,350 and people are looking for premium rice.

"In this segment, Vietnam’s rice is competing directly with that of Thailand," Pham The Cuong, commercial counselor in Indonesia, said.

Though Vietnamese rice is sold in large quantities in traditional markets and supermarkets, not many Indonesians are aware of Vietnamese brands since there is no marketing strategy to promote them, he said.

Vietnam’s award-winning ST24 and ST25 brands would surely be competitive, but more marketing is needed since many Indonesian importers do not know about them, he said.

Challenges Vietnamese exporters could face in Indonesia are the rising popularity of Thai rice varieties and the government’s policy of promoting domestic products, he added.

Cao Xuan Thang, the Vietnam commercial counsellor in Singapore, considers the island a promising export market but rice only accounts for 0.15 percent of Vietnam’s agricultural exports to it.

People there prefer quality products even if prices are high, he added.

Vietnam exported 6.15 million tons of rice last year, second biggest globally behind India, and plans to bring the figure down to 4 million by 2030 and focus more on quality and higher prices.

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