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Recovering cassava industry faces development obstacles

Update: September, 26/2014 - 08:19

Cassava garden in Chau Thanh District's Dong Phuoc A in the southern province of Hau Giang. The Vietnamese cassava industry is facing development challenges though it has seen a resurgence in its exports since August 2014. — Photo tinmoi.vn

HA NOI (VNS) — Viet Nam has witnessed a resurgence in its cassava exports since August 2014, but its cassava industry continues to face development challenges, experts said.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) reported that cassava exports last August had tripled the production of previous months to 193,000 tonnes.

According to the MARD, however, in the first eight months of the year, cassava exports experienced a year-on-year reduction of 2.6 per cent in volume to 2.26 million tonnes, and four per cent in value to US$729 million, because of a fall in cassava exports for the first seven months of the year.

In the first eight months of the year, China continued to be the largest export market for Vietnamese cassava, accounting for 85 per cent of total exports. Also, the export price of cassava to China surged by 20 to 25 per cent to $245 per tonne.

Meanwhile, cassava exports to Japan witnessed sudden and dramatic growth, rising by 12 times in volume and seven times in value. Exports to Malaysia likewise increased by 6.65 per cent in volume but fell by 3.7 per cent in value compared with that of the same period last year.

The MARD expected Viet Nam to earn $1 billion from cassava exports for the entire year. However, Nguyen Van Lang, chairman of the Viet Nam Cassava Association, said the cassava industry's development remained unsustainable.

Viet Nam's cassava starch production is in the hands of 100 factories and hundreds of households, and the nation is the world's second largest cassava exporter after Thailand, according to the association.

The country has allotted 560,000 ha of land to cassava trees with a total output of 9.4 million tonnes, of which 30 per cent are for domestic consumption and 70 per cent, or 6.5 million tonnes, are for export.

But Lang said Viet Nam could export only three million tonnes of cassava this year because the global economic crisis has reduced world demand for cassava. He added that China, the largest export market of Vietnamese cassava, has also closed 70 per cent of its ethanol-producing factories as China's ethanol industry continued to stagnate.

Meanwhile, cassava production is expected to increase in Thailand, the world's largest cassava exporter, and Indonesia plans to triple the volume of its cassava exports this year.

Chinese enterprises have also been buying or investing in factories producing cassava starch in Laos and Cambodia to reduce its dependence on Viet Nam.

Therefore, Lang said, the State should continue promotion programmes for exporting cassava to other markets to ensure stability in consumption and avoid dependence on China. Target markets include India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan and South Korea, as well Taiwan and the European Union.

The association has also asked the MARD and the Ministry of Science and Technology to do scientific research on new cassava seeds with high levels of productivity, as well as technologies and equipment for increasing efficiency in the preservation and processing of cassava starch.

The State should also issue policies for offering soft loans to cassava-producing regions and regulating the environmental impact of cassava processing factories, added Lang. — VNS

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