Vietnam, one of the world’s leading rice exporters , has lowered bar for its rice export for 2013 to between 7-7.2 million tonnes from the targeted 7.5 million tonnes and is striving to open new markets . The Vietnam Economic News reports.

As domestic businesses currently meet difficulties in exporting to traditional markets, promoting exports to new markets such as Africa and Mexico is considered an important solution.

Statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development show that in September, Vietnam exported an estimated 471,000 tonnes of rice worth 214 million USD. In the first nine months of this year, the country exported an estimated 5.35 million tonnes of the grain worth 2.35 billion USD, down 14.3 percent in terms of volume and 16.7 percent in value compared with the same period of 2012.

Also in the same period under review, Vietnamese rice exports have continuously decreased in terms of both volume and value, attributable to redundant supplies. China, the largest market for Vietnamese rice, has temporarily stopped importing to wait for further price falls.

Data from the Vietnam Food Association (VFA) show that in September 2013, the country exported 54,000 tonnes of rice to China. Other traditional markets such as Indonesia and the Philippines have also reduced the import of Vietnamese rice.

In the context of difficult export to traditional markets, seeking new export markets is considered a vital solution for domestic rice businesses. In the last eight months, Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on rice trading with Comoros, an East African country, under which 60,000 tonnes will be shipped there each year in the period from August 2013 to the end of December 2015.

Before that, in late March, Vietnam signed an MoU on rice trading with Guinea to export 300,000 tonnes each year in the period from April 1, 2013 to December 31, 2015. Comoros has become the third African country, after Guinea and the Republic of Sierra Leone, to sign an MoU on importing rice directly from Vietnam.

The largest rice market in the world with an annual consumer demand for over 9 million tonnes, of which 6.4-6.5 million tonnes are imported, Africa is considered as a potential market for Vietnamese rice. Rice has become the number-one Vietnamese export product to Africa, accounting for 30 percent of the total value of Vietnam’s exports to Africa and 20 percent of the total value of Vietnam’s rice exports to the world.

From September 1-26, 2013, 45 percent of Vietnam’s rice exports went to Africa. In the past, Vietnam met difficulties in exporting the grain to Africa because it exported through a third country. Now, the MoUs which were signed recently encourage African importers to buy more Vietnamese fragrant rice because its price is just half of that of Thai grain while the quality is almost the same.

Today, people in many African countries, especially urban residents, use more fragrant rice to prepare their daily meals as their incomes have improved. Therefore, Vietnam is seeking ways to increase rice exports to Africa.

Mexico is a new market for Vietnamese rice. Since the beginning of this year, Vietnam has exported to this market nearly 3,000 tonnes (before 2013, Vietnam could not export any rconsignment to the Mexican market due to strict quality requirements). Clearly, Vietnamese rice can meet the requirements of difficult-to-please markets.

Phan Van Chinh, Director of the Import-Export Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said that along with efforts to increase exports to traditional markets, the ministry had promoted negotiations to seek new export markets for Vietnamese rice.

“In the initial period, the volume of rice exports to new markets will possibly be not high, but this will be a good solution to promote rice exports, especially in the current situation. Exporting rice to these markets will also help popularise the brand of Vietnamese rice,” he affirmed.-VNA