|Domestic and international tourists visit the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival in the central province of Dak Lak which attracted more than 200 coffee enterprises with more than 690 stalls. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Ha
HA NOI (VNS) — Despite rubbing shoulders with Brazil as the world's top coffee exporter, Viet Nam accounted for a mere US$3.4 billion out of the $100 billion global coffee market last year.
Its exports of 1.7 million tonnes and the realisation represented increases of 23 per cent and 24 per cent compared to 2010/2011, but were far below potential, according to industry insiders at a conference held yesterday at the sideline of the Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival.
Y Dham Enuol, vice chairman of Dak Lak, the country's most important coffee-growing province, said the area under the crop, of around 500,000ha, is stable and farming techniques have improved.
"Unlike their passive trading in the past, coffee growers now decide the price and the time to sell their produce."
Besides, coffee growers now co-operate with each other to form larger fields, which helps them boost productivity.
The secretary general of Viet Nam Coffee Cocoa Association (Vicofa), Nguyen Viet Vinh, said the quality of coffee, especially robusta beans, is vital for success in the world market.
Vietnamese robusta has a distinctive flavour, yet its price is lower than coffee sold by some other countries.
"The percentage of robusta used in the production of instant coffee has increased from 30 per cent to 40 per cent, which is an advantage to Viet Nam coffee exporters," he pointed out.
Vicofa data shows that Viet Nam's robusta exports doubled from 2009 to 50,000 tonnes in 2011.
According to industry insiders, in addition to their bumper crops, exporters have also benefited from relatively low-interest loans in foreign currencies from banks.
In the past, high interest dong loans put Viet Nam's exporters at a disadvantage on the global market.
Dang Le Nguyen Vu, general director of country's biggest coffee company, Trung Nguyen, lamented Viet Nam's low share of the global export market.
"We should think about it, seriously," he said.
He said demand for coffee exceeds supply, especially in developed countries where annual demand is 5kg per capita.
"That is why we should consider whether to keep the existing area of coffee or increase it."
He said coffee growers should also apply modern irrigation technologies which require less water than traditional methods.
According to the General Statistics Office, the country exported 415,000 tonnes of coffee in the first two months for US$884 million, a year-on-year increase of 38.1 per cent in value.
It attributed the jump also to rising export prices, which hit an average of $2,130 per tonne, up 5 per cent year-on-year.
But in February exports fell to 196,000 tonnes, a 54.3 per cent fall from the previous month due to the worst drought in 10 years in the Central Highlands.
Plantations in the Central Highlands are demanding a second watering of the crop, but rivers, lakes, and ponds in the region are getting drier.
The groundwater level is now four to five meters lower than that in 2006, and half of the coffee crop faces a shortage of water.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, coffee has become the country's second largest agricultural export commodity.
Buon Ma Thuot Festival begins
|Giant parade: Elephants parade through main streets of Buon Ma Thuot City of the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak, on Saturday, during the street festival which was organised as part of the 4th Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival.— VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Ha
Buon Ma Thuot City was bustling on Saturday as the fourth Buon Ma Thuot Coffee Festival kicked off.
Located in the central province of Dak Lak, the city is known as the "capital of Vietnamese coffee".
At the opening ceremony, local art troupes depicted the product's development, from the time coffee trees are planted to the moment when the beans are harvested, packaged and sold.
The festival also features an exhibition of Vietnamese coffee brands, a street festival, a coffee brewing contest and a contest to elect the product's new ambassador. Tourists will be able to tour coffee plantations and learn about production techniques and well-known coffee shops throughout the city will offer free samples.
Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Nhan attended the event, praising the coffee sector in general and Dak Lak Province in particular for its recent achievements.
The country exports more than 1 million tonnes of coffee beans each year to nearly 100 countries and territories worldwide.
Last year, Viet Nam surpassed Brazil to become the world's largest coffee exporter with an export revenue of US$3.4 billion, an annual increase of 36 per cent.
According to Trang Quang Thanh, director of the province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the province alone produces 400,000 tonnes of coffee beans with export turnover of about US$700 million per year.
Coffee production has become a major economic sector of the province and region, contributing greatly to improving local people's lives.
Buon Ma Thuot has been hosting the coffee festival every two years since 2011 to promote Vietnamese coffee to the world.
The four-day festival was sponsored by the People's Committee of Dak Lak Province along with ministries and agencies, the Viet Nam Coffee Association, the Viet Nam National Coffee Corporation (Vinacafe) and other Central Highlands provinces. — VNS