Exporters have not fully exploited the potential of the Malaysian demand for food, a representative of the Malaysian Small and Medium Enterprise Association in Vietnam told the Asian Connection Conference in HCM City on November 29.

Pham Thi Thanh Ha said that Vietnam's food export value to Malaysia accounted for only 3.3 percent of Malaysia's total while Thailand's exports to Malaysia accounted for more than 20 percent.

Four years ago, Vietnam's food and foodstuff export value was only 2.1 percent.

Export value could be higher, as the two countries are located near each other and trade promotions in Malaysia are not costly.

Vietnamese exporters also have an opportunity to export Halal food favoured by many Malaysians, even those who are non-Muslim. About 2.1 million Muslims live in Malaysia.

She noted, however, that companies must have proper Halal certificates or have a Halal logo on their exports.

Businesses were encouraged to participate in fairs and exhibitions in Malaysia to access partners and buyers quickly, she said.

When doing business in Malaysia, Vietnamese companies should have staff who speak English and Chinese, since Chinese accounted for 80 percent of the economy, even though they comprise only 20 per cent of the population, she added.

Ha advised Vietnamese exporters to conduct extensive surveys to learn about the market and then seek trade partners.

Ly Truong Chien, chairman of the Tri Tri Group, said market research was a key factor in becoming successful.

The world has changed rapidly, requiring businesses to have updated information and databases.

Market information is valid for only two years, he added.

Moreover, business plans must be based on what the market needs and a company's capacities.

"Confidence must be built based on a thorough investment and preparation," he said.

The Asia Connection event is part of activities included in the "economic pillars" of the ASEAN Community.

The Asia Connection conference is expected to take place every six months in Vietnam and in other Asian countries and territories, including Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Hong Kong and Taiwan.-VNA