By Xuan Huong
|Workers of Tra Vinh-based Cau Ke Food Co load packages of rice for export. Domestic rice exports hit a record high of 7.1 million tonnes last year and earned US$3.5 billion. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khuong
HCM CITY — Viet Nam's rice exports last year rose to a record high of 7.1 million tonnes for an FOB (free on board) value of US$3.5 billion, the Viet Nam Food Association (VFA) reported yesterday.
This represented a year-on-year increase of 5.2 per cent in volume and 20.43 per cent in value, Pham Van Bay, VFA deputy chairman, told a meeting held in HCM City to review rice exports last year and set plans for this year.
The average FOB price last year was $493.5 per tonne, up $62.4 over the previous year.
Asian and African countries were the main buyers of Vietnamese rice, accounting for 66.52 per cent and 22.75 per cent of exports, respectively.
Bay said last year's exports developed in a "complicated" manner with the Philippines, a major buyer of Vietnamese rice, reducing imports from Viet Nam. However, the return of Indonesia as a buyer and an increase in exports to China and Bangladesh made up for this.
Exports to African market increased strongly in the first half of the year, but reduced significantly from last July since African importers had switched to cheaper rice from India, Pakistan and Myanmar.
2011 was a robust year for the country's agriculture sector as local farmers enjoyed both bumper crops and good prices, said VFA chairman Truong Thanh Phong.
"Vietnamese rice quality has gradually improved, therefore we have penetrated more choosy markets," he said, adding that export of fragrant rice last year doubled the figure of preceding years.
Difficult year ahead
However, Phong as well as many other delegates at the meeting agreed that rice export was expected to encounter many difficulties this year due to unpredictable changes in the world market and stiff competition from cheap rice sources in India and Pakistan.
"Export of low-grade rice would face a tough competition from India and Pakistan this year; we may lose 20 per cent of our market share for low-grade rice in the African market," he said.
The number of signed export orders this year was not much different from last year, but the delivery time had been prolonged until August. Last year, the deliver times fell within the first quarter.
So exports in the first quarter of this year would be much lower than in the same period last year, Phong said.
Bay said both the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the US Department of Agriculture had forecast that world rice output for 2011/12 would outstrip demand. Prices therefore would reduce because of fierce competition among rice suppliers.
In the first half of the year, India would continue to sell its rice at low price to reduce its big stock, he said.
Because of their higher prices, rice exports from Thailand and Viet Nam, the world's two largest exporters of the grain, would be slower this year and stockpiles will increase in both countries.
Viet Nam expects to export about 6.5-7 million tonnes of rice this year, with a focus on high quality rice.
Phong said this year, the association would work to consolidate exports to traditional markets and seek to expand its market share in other markets, especially promoting sales of high quality rice to West Africa and China.
The VFA would also co-operate with Chinese counterparts to set up a China-Viet Nam rice enterprise to boost exports to the lucrative market, he said.
Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien asked the association to keep a close watch on world market developments and pass on appropriate information and directions to its members.
He also asked enterprises to make more efforts to promote the Vietnamese rice brand in overseas market. Delegates at the meeting said in case there was a sharp fall in world rice prices, the Government and the association should have plans to stockpile the grain so that farmers would not be hurt further. — VNS