Vietnam could be self-sufficient in urea fertiliser once new plants are built this year, Nguyen Hac Thuy, chairman of the Vietnam Fertiliser Association, has said.

Ca Mau and Ninh Binh fertiliser plants, financed respectively by PetroVietnam and the Vietnam Chemical Group, were expected to produce 1.36 million tonnes of urea this year, bringing total production in the country to 2.36 million of tonnes – double last year's figure, Thuy said.

If production reaches its target, domestic supply this year will exceed demand, estimated at 1.8 million tonnes, he said.

The association also estimated urea production will rise to 3 million tonnes in 2015, far in excess of national demand and will therefore have to find new export markets.

Cao Hoai Duong, PetroVietnam Fertiliser and Chemical Corp general director, said his company has been focusing on overseas trade promotion in Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

In addition to opening a new branch in Cambodia, the company has signed a memorandum of understanding with three international urea traders, he said.

Besides promoting nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (NPK) fertiliser, which saw production rise by 61 percent last year to 127,000 tonnes, the Vietnam Chemical Group said it will continue to make further investments in expanding production by 2015.

Meanwhile, the Southern Fertiliser Company plans to raise fertiliser exports by 30 percent this year, particularly to Thailand and African countries, said its director Nguyen Tan Dat.

The company is also mulling a plan to export its products to Australia and New Zealand, Dat added.

However, Vietnamese fertiliser exporters are facing stiffer competition from China, Thailand, Middle Eastern countries and Russia, industry experts said.

They said local enterprises need to invest in technical innovation to improve quality and reduce costs, as well as pay more attention to building and developing their trademarks.

Le Quoc Phong, director of Binh Dien Fertiliser Joint Stock Co, emphasised the importance of closer cooperation among domestic fertiliser producers.

Dat said his company needs about 300,000 tonnes of urea each year to make NPK fertiliser.

He also said the Government should sign payment agreements with African countries to help exporters avoid risks during shipping. /.