Vietnam hopes to increase its tea-export prices to the world average and double export turnover by 2015.

Nguyen Quoc Vong from RMIT University Vietnam , said a national tea committee should be set up to create a legal system, define production standards and generally manage the sector's development.

The proposal is well received by representatives from north-western provinces with large areas under cultivation – Lao Cai, Yen Bai and Tuyen Quang.

However, other planters said the foundation of a national committee is not necessary. Theysaid they believe it will be more practical to enhance the capacity of the existing Vietnam Tea Association.

According to the association’s President Doan Anh Tuan, low production from small-scale farms, poor quality maintenance and loose links between enterprises and planters are headaches for the sector.

Tuan said 65 percent of tea growing areas are under the management of planters, but output is only about 70 percent of that of the bigger enterprises.

Nguyen Duy Thinh from Hanoi University of Science and Technology said Vietnam 's tea export price is the lowest in the world, about 1,160 USD a tonne.

This did not encourage planters to continue, he said, adding that many wanted to quit when they are recently paid only 7,000 VND (34 US cents) a kilo.

Tuan said raising the quality of tea products is the first priority. And building a strong brand for Vietnam 's tea is the second.

He suggested that planters develop terraced fields and be shown which seedlings and farming techniques to use. He said this will help ensure productivity and quality.

Vong said that to strengthen co-operation between farmers and tea processors, planters should consider a scheme where they – and their land – will become shareholders of tea processing factories.

He said tea-quality inspection centres be used to ensure that standards complied with overseas demands.

Vietnam ranks fifth in the world in tea production and export. At present, it has more than 130,000ha of land under plantations. Output has been increasing at the rate of 6 percent per year.

By 2015, tea export prices are expected to double to about 2,200 USD a tonne and export turnover 440 million USD.

During the first seven months of this year, Vietnam exported 73,000 tonnes with a turnover of 108 million USD, an increase of more than 4 percent compared to the same period last year.-VNA