Rice export at the Song Hau Food Company in Can Tho (Source: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – Expanding into international markets to boost rice exports was the focus of a workshop held by the Ministry of Industry and Trade on February 22 in HCM City.

According to the ministry, the Asian region remained Vietnam’s key rice importer in 2015, totalling 4.8 million tonnes of rice and accounting for nearly 74.5 percent of the country’s rice exports.

China was the region’s biggest importer, accounting for 33 percent. It was followed by the Philippines, with more than 18 percent, Indonesia, 9.7 percent; and Malaysia, over 8 percent.

Commercial Counsellor in Beijing Bui Huy Hoang said since 2012, Vietnam has been the biggest rice exporter to China, accounting for 54 percent of its total rice imports in 2015.

China’s rice imports are expected to increase in 2016 thanks to a big difference between domestic and imported rice prices, Hoang said.

Commercial Counsellor in the Republic of Korea Chu Thang Trung highlighted the country’s new policies on rice imports, which help Vietnamese rice exporters.

He expressed his hope that Vietnamese rice exporters will take advantage of the new regulations and the Vietnam – RoK free trade agreement to penetrate and dominate the market.

Deputy director of the Department of Industry and Trade in the Mekong Delta province of Long An, Nguyen Xuan Hong, called for incentives for the local rice export sector.

Domestic rice exporters need information about international markets, such as quota-related information so they can avoid potential damage and losses in signing contracts with international partners, Hong said.

Chairman of the Gentraco Joint Stock Company in Can Tho City Nguyen Trung Kien called on the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) and the Vietnamese Commercial Counsellors in Latin America to provide information on quality control and food safety rules, among others.

They should also provide consultation services for domestic enterprises in cases of trade disputes and technical barriers, as well as potential competitors.

Huynh Minh Hue, general secretary of the association, said Vietnam needs to ship its high quality rice to trade partners other than the traditional key markets of China and Asia.

He also stressed the need for the sector to ensure quality and prices, as well as promotions to enter markets that have signed free trade agreements with Vietnam.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh urged the Import-Export Agency to cooperate with the Association to help rice exports, with focus on developing the key markets, marketing in new ones and handling international trade disputes.

Publicity campaigns will be promoted to enhance rice exporters’ and farmers’ understanding of FTAs, the deputy minister said.-VNA