|Viet Nam now exports tea to 61 countries and territories, down from 77. Not a single European nation is in the top 10 markets, with Taiwan, Pakistan and China holding the first three positions.—File Photo
HA NOI (VNS)— The tea industry must become more sustainable through building concentrated tea areas and improving productivity, quality and safety, experts said at the fifth Viet Nam Tea Outlook 2013 held yesterday in Ha Noi.
Nguyen Thi Anh Hong, general secretary of the Viet Nam Tea Association, noted that the country had exported 86,000 tonnes of tea this year, representing a 15 per cent decrease compared with the same period last year.
The supply of raw materials decreased about 20 per cent in 2013 due to unfavorable weather conditions, she said.
Additionally, fewer farmers were investing their profits back into growing tea and some grew small-scale plantations without proper planning.
"The overuse of plant protection chemicals, lack of attention to ensuring quality and safety and weak linkage with farmers are also affecting the industry," Hong said.
Nguyen Xuan Hong, head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD)'s Plant Protection Department, agreed that tea farmers were overusing plant protection chemicals but hoped that the Law on Plant Protection and Quarantine expected to be approved later this year would boost inspections of the pesticide supply and usage system.
According to the association, Viet Nam now exports tea to 61 countries and territories, down from 77. Not a single European nation is in the top 10 markets, with Taiwan, Pakistan and China holding the first three positions.
According to experts, Vietnamese tea exporters found the EU countries harder to penetrate due to risks of pesticide residue and consequently focused on easier markets such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia and China.
The association called for a central government agency to coordinate government policies for the industry and develop concentrated tea areas to improve the safety and quality of tea leaves.
Hong also stressed the need to reduce low-scale processing factories and link the processing factories with raw material areas.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) plans for the country's tea growing area to reach 150,000 hectares in 2020, from about 124,000 hectares in 2012.
Nguyen Quoc Vong, an expert on quality and safety enhancement of agricultural products from MARD, said that even though Viet Nam was among the top five tea exporters in the world, Vietnamese tea still lacked branding and consumers perceived it as low value.
The average export value per hectare for Vietnamese tea is about $1,200, in comparison with $5,700 for Sri Lanka and over $6,000 for Kenya, Vong said, yet tea farmers lack the motivation to improve the quality of raw materials.
Doan Xuan Hoa, deputy head of MARD's Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Processing Department, said long-term planning must tackle the challenge of supplying land for large-scale plantations, monitoring quality throughout the supply chain and restructuring the production of tea products according to changing market demand. — VNS