Tea exports fell 4.3 percent in volume and 0.8 percent in value last year over the previous year, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said yesterday.

The country exported 131,000 tonnes of tea last year, totalling 198 million USD at an average price of 1,520 USD per tonne.

This matched the record high in 2009, an increase of 3.5 percent over last year, said director of the ministry's Information and Statistics Centre Nguyen Viet Chien.

Chien said tea exports had declined in most markets, the notable exception being Indonesia.

Chairman of the Vietnam Tea Association Nguyen Van Thu attributed the decline to a 5 percent fall in yield due to wet weather.

In addition, many consumers chose other drinks thanks to better economic conditions.

Thu said tea exporters were facing stiff competition with other countries such as Sri Lanka and India exporting to traditional Vietnamese customers, including Russia, Pakistan and the US.

"In spite of its low price, Vietnamese tea still cannot compete with that of other countries. Consumers want good tea even at a higher price," Thu said.

He noted that although Vietnam had been the 5th biggest tea exporter in the world and the price had increased, it was difficult to increase the exported volume because the nation exported mainly raw tea.

Currently, Vietnam had 132,000ha of tea plantations, bringing jobs to 400,000 households in 35 provinces and cities nationwide, mainly in Thai Nguyen, Lam Dong and Tuyen Quang./.