The decline in exports of several key agricultural products during the first months of 2015 demonstrates the long-term challenges facing farmers and exporters, and shows that urgent solutions are required to ensure more sustainable development.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), exports of agricultural, forestry and seafood products in the first two months were worth over 4.17 billion USD, 1.9 percent lower than the same period last year.

Most key export commodities suffered a downturn, including seafood, rice, coffee and rubber.

Seafood trade was valued at 907 million USD, an annual plunge of 9.4 percent, raising concerns about the unpredictability and instability plaguing the industry.

Prawn and tra fish exports might suffer this year due to a high anti-dumping tax rate imposed by the United States and growing competition from other suppliers, particularly Indonesia , Bangladesh and India .

Rice exports also experienced a bad time, as the product only brought home 243 million USD during the period, down 34 percent year on year. China , Vietnam ’s largest rice buyer, plans to tighten its hold on cross-border rice trading and welcome more imports of lower-priced rice from India , Pakistan and Myanmar .

In addition, oversupply and fierce global competition are believed to be dragging down the rubber prices early this year to 1,423 USD per tonne, a drop of 31.27 percent, the Vietnam Rubber Association (VRA) has announced.

Economic experts revealed that the weakening of agricultural exports might stem from inadequate marketing efforts and a lack of hi-tech farming products used by local exporters. Most products are exported in their raw form at relatively high prices.

To solve the problems, Luu Bich Ho, former Director of the Development Strategy Institute at the Ministry of Planning and Investment, suggested exporters play a greater role in the farming production chain, ensuring the provision of high quality inputs and outputs.

Increased market information for farmers, and proper research regarding customer taste and habits, is also essential when planning an export strategy, he added.-VNA