A mission of more than 40 members of the Hong Kong Rice Merchants Association on Feb. 28 began a five-day visit to Viet Nam seeking business opportunities with local exporters.

After a meeting with potential business partners on Feb. 28 in HCM City , organised by the Sao Khue Investment and Trade Promotion Organisation, the mission will go on fact-finding trips to rice fields and processing plants.

For Vietnamese businesses, it is an opportunity to find new partners and increase exports to the market.

" Vietnam has become a very important rice exporting country for Hong Kong . In the past four years, the percentage of Vietnamese rice imported by Hong Kong has dramatically increased from less than 1 percent in 2007 to almost 30 percent in 2011. Last year, almost 100,000 metric tonnes of Vietnamese rice was exported to Hong Kong, making up one third of Hong Kong 's total imported rice, " said Kenneth Chan, chairman of the Rice Merchants' Association of Hong Kong.

On average, Hong Kong imported 320,000 tonnes of Vietnamese rice per year.

He said at present, Vietnam was the second largest rice exporting country after Thailand . However, the association's members still had limited knowledge about Vietnamese rice and the culture of Vietnam 's rice trading, so this trip will be very useful, he added.

Vietnam expects to ship 6.5 million tonnes of rice this year./.