The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) will set up a coordinating board for the tea sector following the model of the coffee industry to facilitate its sustainable development.

At a conference on the tea industry development on April 26, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat said the Cultivation Department will be responsible for designing the working mechanism for this coordinating board.

The MARD is working with Unilever group and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initative (IDH) to carry out a public-private project on improving the long-term economic, environmental and social sustainability of Vietnamese tea smallholders by strengthening their capacity to access mainstream export market.

Addressing the conference, a Unilever group representative said Vietnam’s tea quality remains low while there is yet a clear and uniform strategy for public-private coordination in enhancing tea quality and sustainability. He noted that many sub-standard tea processing factories are still allowed to operate, at the same time some companies want to apply advance technology but they lack capital to do so.

Flavio Corsin from IDH suggested that sub-standard factories should receive assistance to upgrade their operation while there should also be sanctions to punish those which fail to meet standards.

Regarding small holders, Corsin proposed a support programme to help them access and apply sustainable processing standards and meet origin rules.

Vietnam currently has 135,500 ha under tea cultivation. The Vietnam Tea Association (Vitas) estimates that Vietnam will export 138,000 tonnes of tea this year to earn 222 million USD, more or less matching last year's figures.-VNA