by Le Hung Vong
|Farmers in the Mekong Delta complain there is not much demand for their high-quality winter-spring paddy this year.—VNA/VNS Photo
HCM CITY (VNS)- Farmers in the Mekong Delta complain there is not much demand for their high-quality winter-spring paddy this year.
They were instructed (by authorities) to grow low-quality paddy on only 15-20 per cent of the total area under rice. But it has become difficult for them to sell the high-quality varieties since traders prefer low-quality ones.
This has dragged prices down, forcing many farmers to sell their high-quality grains at the price of low-quality ones.
Doan Dai Nghia of Truong Xuan commune in Can Tho, said on instructions from agricultural authorities he had planted Jasmine 85 paddy instead of IR 50404.
Though it requires much more care and expenditure, it produces lower yields and fetches only VND200 per kilogramme more than ordinary paddy.
On March 26 traders bought dried paddy for VND6,300 to VND6,400, VND1,000 per kilogramme lower than last year.
At these prices, farmers barely manage to break even.
Farmer Nguyen Thanh Tam of An Giang Province's Tri Ton District, who grew IR 50404 rice on 10ha this season, said: "Although IR 50404 paddy sells at a little bit lower than high-quality paddy, it yields about 100kg more per 1,000sq.m. So it … gives us higher profits."
It is estimated that farmers in Kien Giang grew Jasmine 85 on 60 to 70 per cent of their nearly 300,500ha this winter-spring season.
But, when State food companies bought rice for the national reserve three weeks ago, only two out of seven of them were ordered to purchase Jasmine 85 paddy.
Tran Quang Cui, deputy director of the Kien Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province has a plan to grow rice on 292,000ha, including 60,000ha under high-quality paddy.
Duong Nghia Quoc, director of the Dong Thap Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said there was no demand for high-quality paddy because few export contracts had been signed.
He said many importers in other countries want low-quality rice, making it easy for farmers to sell their IR 50404 paddy.
He blamed the economic situation for the current situation in the global rice market.
Cui told Viet Nam News that it is also difficult to limit the areas under the cultivation of low-quality paddy to 20 per cent of the total areas under rice cultivation in a province.
Vietnamese prefer foreign travel
Despite promotion campaigns for domestic tours by the travel industry in the last year or so, most people have preferred foreign tours.
Neighbouring countries like Thailand, Singapore, China, and Laos are on top of the mind, rather than domestic destinations, when people make tourism plans.
Vu The Binh, deputy chairman of the Viet Nam Tourism Association, has admitted that the situation is bad for travel firms.
But they should not blame this on the economic situation that has forced people to tighten their belts, he said.
"They (people) still spend money on travel, but do not spend money on domestic tours simply because they cannot see attractive products at good prices.
"œThey realise it is less costly for them to travel abroad while enjoying better services.
"They do not have to worry about overcharging, which they have to confront if they go to local destinations."
Some 3.5 million Vietnamese went on overseas tours last year, a year-on-year increase of 20 per cent, according to the Viet Nam National Administration for Tourism (VNAT).
China, Cambodia, and Thailand were the most popular destinations as they spent over $3.5 billion abroad, Binh said.
According to tour operators, the number of Vietnamese travellers booking outbound tours has been rising sharply in the last couple of years, and their spending on overseas tours is "relatively high."
The money they spent was in fact equivalent to half of the revenues from international travellers to Viet Nam last year.
The country received 6.8 million foreign visitors who spent nearly $7 billion here.
Despite the sharp increase in numbers, outbound tours are not well organised or managed either, Binh said.
The challenges facing tour operators who organise outbound tours are set to be discussed at the Viet Nam International Tourism Fair in Ha Noi from April 18 to 21.
Coke wins battle for minds during Tet
For the second consecutive year Coca Cola was the brand most associated with Tet in HCM City as was Ha Noi Beer in the capital city, according to Millward Brown, a global marketing research agency.
The most successful TV advertisement on a Tet theme was Pepsi's, with Coke, Neptune cooking oil, and OMO detergent also doing well.
"Of course, with TV being an especially prominent media in Viet Nam, there is a close link between best performing TV ad and most associated brand," the company said following its survey.
"In fact it is most likely that the strong performance of the Pepsi TV campaign has led to its rise in the Brands at Tet Survey.
"The one thing that we see with these brands which have had successful Tet campaigns, rather than those that are not so successful, is that they tap into the core values of Tet and rely heavily on an emotional theme to pull the heart strings of consumers."
Less successful were TV campaigns that had only hints of Tet, for example a peach blossom tree, a display of watermelons, or a social gathering, which are somewhat peripheral to the core values of Tet.
This was particularly heavily featured in confectionery ads and as a result they tended to perform poorly in the survey.
Millward Brown launched the first survey in Viet Nam last year to find out which brands consumers associated most with Tet and which television ads featuring a Tet theme held the highest appeal, and to explore consumers' changing attitudes towards Tet.
"Tet remains an important time of the year to drive brand superiority and maximise sales for certain brands in certain categories," Phil Worthington, managing director of Millward Brown Viet Nam, said.
"For brands aiming to capitalise on Tet, knowing which Tet traditions they value most is key to enhancing brand loyalty during this festive period of the year.
"However we are seeing signs that the nature of Vietnamese consumers' celebration of Tet is changing."
The surveys have been done partly in response to online chats about whether Tet remains relevant in an increasingly modernised society.
There have even been calls for merging Tet with western New Year, with bloggers pointing to workdays lost and changing traditions.
Though the survey itself found few takers for the merger demand — with only 5 per cent agreeing — 14 per cent agreed that Tet is becoming less relevant than before and 24 per cent saying it is being celebrated less than in the past.
A shift in social priorities in underway, triggered by increasing purchasing power in recent years and higher exposure to other countries, with people taking on elements of celebrations that appeal most, the survey said.
Even compared to a year ago the level to which other festivals like Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Halloween are celebrated has doubled.
"Observing the streets of HCM City at Christmas, you couldn't help but notice the increasingly lavish decorations around the streets and the number of Santa Claus hats and beards being worn.
"You may have also noticed increased parading around the streets of couples on motorbikes during Valentine's.
"A whole number of brands took advantage of Tet as an occasion this year, associating their brands with the traditions of Tet so that consumers develop warmer feelings towards such brands which they hope will lead to increased purchasing." —VNS