A Government programme to distribute domestically made goods in rural areas had benefited both companies and rural consumers, delegates told a meeting in HCM City on Sept. 23.

Initiated in March last year by the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the HCM City-based Business Study and Assistance Centre, it sought to help domestic producers understand rural customers, creating links between producers, distributors and retailers, and educating rural consumers, said Vu Kim Hanh, the centre's director.

The first phase of the programme, which was reviewed at the meeting, saw 50 trade fairs held in 18 provinces and sales of more than 30.4 billion VND (1.55 million USD), she said.

Around 649,300 people visited the fairs while 132 firms were involved in the programme. More than 2,000 small traders benefited from training courses held to improve their sales skills.

The programme has enabled many rural people to buy quality products at reasonable prices. For a long time they have been accustomed to buying shoddy goods without clear origins.

Tang Quang Trong of My Hao Cosmetic Company said: "Through the trade fairs, rural customers know more about many of our products. We also learnt to tailor our product models, prices, quality and distribution system to suit consumers."

Do Hoang Nam of Namilux Company said the rural market was very promising for gas stove makers since many people there still used coal or firewood for cooking.

"By introducing Namilux gas stoves in rural areas, our company has achieved strong growth in terms of market share, especially for mini gas stoves," he said.

Hanh said the early results proved that rural areas were markets of great potential that have never received the attention they deserve.

"Sales have been so high that even some companies have been surprised," she said.

The second phase of the programme, which opened this month, would see the distribution of goods in more provinces and districts and organisation of more training courses for traders, Hanh said.

She urged the ministry to encourage enterprises taking part in the programme for the first time./.