A panel at the Vietnam Food Forum held in HCM City on November 16 discusses ways to promote the country’s food industry in the global value chain (Photo VNA)

HCM City (VNA)
- Vietnamese food producers need to focus on improving product quality, invest in new technologies and build brands to meet consumer demand and increase export value, experts said at the Vietnam Food Forum held in HCM City on November 16.

With consumers increasingly concerned about product hygiene and food safety, more attention should be paid to the food chain’s different stages, where hazards can occur, according to Nguyen Song Ha, assistant chief representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) should be applied to improve safety and quality, he said.

“Vietnamese businesses should invest more in GAP to enable our products to be more delicious and safer so as to improve our position in the world market,” Ha said.

The volume of VietGap-certified products remains modest compared to market demand, he added.

According to FAO’s forecast, consumption of high-quality food products will increase significantly until 2020, Ha noted.

Speaking on the sidelines of the forum, Nguyen Huong Quynh, managing director of  Nielsen Vietnam, said consumers were willing to pay for high-quality, prestigious products.

“Vietnamese food producers have paid a lot of attention to export markets and are selling products that they have, but haven’t focused on what consumers really need,” she said.

Businesses should not forget that the domestic market has great potential and that many foreign players want to jump in, she added.

Quynh suggested that they focus more on domestic consumer demand, develop suitable products and improve their technology and product designs.

Speaking at the forum, Do Thang Hai, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade, said the food industry had greatly contributed to export revenue, creating jobs and improving workers’ incomes.

Export of agricultural and food products were worth 29.6 billion USD last year, a year-on-year increase of 12.7 percent. But 90 percent of Vietnamese farm exports are raw products, with low added value.

Leon Trujillo, an expert in branding, said: “Vietnam has become a food production powerhouse, but not every country is aware of this.”

He urged Vietnam’s food sector to develop a brand identity that brings value to products, the country and its food producers.

More investment in technologies is needed to raise the ratio of processed products, delegates said, adding that more research and development was necessary to increase competitiveness and add more value to products.

Nguyen Trung Anh, R&D director of the PAN Group, said the company had developed a farm-food-family closed value chain to
offer trusted and traceable products.

It has also worked with local and foreign partners to transfer technologies, develop new products and automate production.

In addition, it has invested in R&D and built linkages with farmers to develop its own material sources, he said.

Deputy Minister Hai said the Ministry of Industry and Trade in collaboration with ministries, business associations and companies are implementing measures to develop markets, improve quality and build brands for Vietnamese food products to gradually raise the export value of products.

At the forum, the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency (Vietrade) signed a memorandum of understanding with the Hong Kong Trade Development Council for cooperation in trade promotion between Hong Kong and Vietnamese businesses.

Vietrade also signed an MoU with Nielsen Vietnam for cooperation in market research and development.

At the event, Jocelyn Tran, from Walmart, also described how companies could become suppliers to Walmart.

The forum included a business-to-business meeting between Vietnamese producers and foreign importing groups from France, the US, Italy, Japan and China, as well as local and foreign supermarkets and hypermarkets such as Walmart, CJ Group, Lotte, Central Group, Vinmart and Satra.

Held on the sidelines of the Vietnam Foodexpo, the forum was organised by Vietrade, the FAO and VPBank.-VNA