Trade villages in northern Hai Phong City are struggling to develop their own trademarks and some have had to "borrow" popular brand names from other trade villages for their products to be accepted in the market.

"The market accepts our products, which means they satisfy demands for quality and price but sometimes customers care more about the brand than the quality," said chairman of the Lat Duong sedge mat production cooperative Pham Van Lien.

Lat Duong sedge mat trade village was developed in Quang Phuc Commune in the 17th century and was quite famous, he said, adding that at present, about 320 local households make mats.

However, Lien said that to sell Lat Duong mats now, producers have to label their products under name of other villages including those in the neighbouring provinces of Thai Binh and Hai Duong.

"The quality of products in our village and theirs is quite similar but their advantage is that they are known and they have a wider market," he said.

Developing a trademark for Lat Duong sedge mats is not easy because it requires a significant financial investment and cooperation from local authorities, producers and other sources.

Other challenges also came up, including a reduction of human resources, supply of materials and investment funds.

Rural labourers are attracted to new factories and industrial zones which turns mat-making into a secondary job in many households, especially for children and the elderly, to raise the family income, he said.

Craftsmen can earn about 1 million VND by selling the mats for about 125,000 VND each.

The carpentry village of Kha Lam in Kien An district's Nam Son ward has faced even greater difficulties. It is on the edge of losing its traditional craft as its products find it hard to compete with bigger brands from the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Bac Giang.

The ward People's Committee vice chairman Nguyen Dinh Den said the cost to produce furniture in Kha Lam Village was double or triple that of other localities as the local labour cost was much higher. This made their products less competitive.

Local producers have yet to cooperate with each other closely to boost local production or build a brand, he said, adding that some local producers offer much lower prices for the same product.

As of the middle of last year, only ten carpentry workshops still have modest operations in the ward. Others households tried to sell products made in other localities.

Vice chairman of the Hai Phong Crafts Association Bui Tien Trung said the city had hundreds of traditional craft villages but only twelve have been recognised. Most of them are small-scale operations with technology problems and limited market access.

Tran Thi Thanh Nhan, representative of the Vietnam Crafts Association in Hai Phong said that many traditional craft villages in the country were facing difficulties in preserving their craft and building their own brands as they lack experience and money to market their products.

In some localities, local authorities have not given proper care to developing craft villages and producers find it difficult to access bank loans because of their limited ability, she said.

"Even producers pay insufficient attention to developing their own brands and only care about selling their products. Labelling or branding is not their concern," she said.

"In many cases, Vietnamese craft products exported to foreign countries under foreign brands names brought exporters and distributors a lot of profit but Vietnamese producers only earned one-tenth or even one-hundredth of the profit," she said./.