Vietnam's exporters have ample opportunities to export farm and food products to the European Union (EU), according to experts.

At a recent Ho Chi Minh City seminar on the export of farm and food products to the EU, the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Trade Promotion Agency noted that the industry for processing farm and food products has continued to develop in the EU even as other industries faced difficulties in production and sales due to an economic downturn.

The agricultural product processing industry is forecast to grow by up to 3.5 percent each year in the coming years, according to the centre. That growth will increase the opportunities to export farm and food products, such as coffee, cacao, tea, honey, cashew and fruits, from Vietnam.

The vneconomy newspaper quoted Nguyen Manh Dung, head of the Agro-Forestry, Seafood Processing and Salt Industry Department, as saying that the EU is the second-largest export market for Vietnamese products, with exports from Vietnam to the EU growing by 28 percent every year.

This year, Vietnam's exports to the EU are expected to reach 25 billion USD, accounting for 18.4 percent of the country's 2013 total export value.

The top exports from Vietnam to the region include agricultural products, seafood, textiles and garments. Vietnam also exports agricultural raw materials to the EU.

However, Vietnamese agricultural exports to the EU also faced some significant challenges, including a lack of storage and processing facilities and the relatively limited scale of production by small-and medium-sized enterprises, Dung said.

Additionally, agricultural exports had to meet the strict quality, hygiene and safety standards of the EU, he said, adding that if Vietnam wants to increase its exports to the EU, local firms will have to improve their storage and processing facilities, establish and protect trademarks and build their reputations.

They also need to develop direct exports instead of using the current route of indirect export activities, Dung said at the seminar held by the Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI), which was jointly organised by the European Union and the Trade Promotion Agency.

The CBI and the Trade Promotion Agency have a joint programme that supports Vietnamese exporters in their exports to the EU.

The programme gives priority to eligible local firms in the coffee, tea, cocoa, honey, cashew, spice and the herbal industries and offers support for market research, accessing information on competitors, improving competitiveness and meeting the EU quality standards.-VNA