Former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) Le Huy Ngo, who is Senior Advisor to the New Rural Building Programme, spoke with the Vietnam Business Forum about the arduous road of Vietnamese mushroom brands.

 According to Mr. Ngo, the objectives set by agricultural sector is that by 2015, annual mushroom production will reach 400,000 tonnes, of which 25 percent will be for exports; by 2020 the figure will be 1 million tonnes, with export earning of about 1 billion USD. In Vietnam only the Plant Biotechnology Centre (Agricultural Genetics Institute) has studied and created 16 types of edible and medicinal mushrooms so far; of which five were officially recognised by MARD and put to mass production.

*Why has this project not yet been implemented at full force?

On April 16th 2012, the Prime Minister approved Scheme 439 of developing mushrooms as national product, unfortunately research in this field right now is still limited (as noted above). Actually, the Department of Plantation (MARD) organised many conferences all over the country to promote and implement the programme, but they haven’t yet achieved their target. The reason comes from a lack of synchrony in implementation: guiding committee and production units are doing their jobs in their own ways.

*Besides those situations, are there any other causes that slow down the mushroom production?

It’s obviously not because of lack of capital and resources. As projected by MARD, the total capital deployed for the framework project is 6,900 billion VND, of which 650 billion VND comes from the state budget; and funding from businesses, farmers and credit loans is 6,250 billion VND.

The main reason here, I think, is the lack of experience among farmers, and experience takes time. Mushroom cultivation requires very fast response to any unusual signs of the crop. Experts can “diagnose” with one look, but it is impossible for farmers.Basic knowledge from short courses is not enough for farmers to solve with their mushroom issues.

Vietnam began planting mushroom in the 1970s, but ever since then the industry has continued to develop at small scale. Especially, research on mushroom pests or cultivation processes has been given very little attention. *But if we only count on experience, is there much chance for Vietnamese mushroom to go far on the global market? There’s no doubt that Vietnam has high potential for mushroom development, but for this product to become a national brand, Vietnam needs a clearer roadmap with specific calculations about varieties, production organisation, branding and marketing.
*Do you have any recommendation for Vietnamese mushroom businesses?

Brand, especially of agricultural products, usually is associated with a business, geographic location, or national product. That product must have a steady value chain from A - Z, which means from research to consumption. We are building brand for mushroom industry in two directions, the first is associating brands with types of products, for example chicken mushrooms, needle mushrooms, the second is associating brand with business, for example we now have Viet My Joint Stock Company famous for straw mushrooms which are well-known as far away as Eastern Europe. In building brand, business is the key factor. However, the State should also play the supporting role instead of leaving enterprises to struggle on their own. Recently, the Ministry of Science and Technology launched a programme to support enterprises and localities in building product brands, including products of the national product programme. Mushroom businesses should take advantage of this opportunity to develop their products.-VNA