Viet Nam is one of the world's major rice exporters, but it still does not have a recognised niche when it comes to the international market. Rice expert Vo Tong Xuan spoke with Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper.
If Viet Nam wants to develop trade marks for its rice, what procedures does it have to follow?
In my opinion, to develop a trade mark for rice, we should start with a variety no other country grows or a popular variety found in other countries, but one that tastes much better. Of course, the chosen variety must be carefully selected and recognised nationwide or in the production region.
After successfully selecting a variety, we can start cultivating. Of course, farmers growing the variety must follow certain procedures. For example, they must sit down and discuss how to prepare the soil, how many kilograms of seed rice they will use for one sao (360sq.m); what fertilisers to use and so on.
Harvesting time is an important factor for high quality rice. Then it must be partly dried. When the moisture in the grains is at about 14 per cent, milling can start. The final step would be to register the rice with the National Office of Intellectual Property of Viet Nam.
Other point that is also important during the process of developing a trade mark, is that all players involved in the process, including the farmers, rice processors and export enterprises, must do their best to keep the trade mark stable.
There are various players involved in the procedures, but what's the most important player then?
In my opinion, the enterprise exporting the rice is the most important player. It has to monitor and oversee the whole procedure from A to Z, ranging from growing it to selling it. These enterprises may receive financial support from the Ministry of Trade and Industry through preferential lending policies to buy advanced threshing machines to cut down the amount of broken rice and to maintain the taste of the grain.
Other support I must mention comes from the Trade Promotion Department (TPD) under the Ministry of Trade and Industry. The department's job is to help find markets for the enterprise. In Viet Nam, the TPD gives financial support to enterprises wanting to attend International Trade Fairs to look for clients and learn experiences in trade promotion from exhibitors.
In the last few years, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has conducted many trade promotions, yet their effectiveness is limited. Do you know why?
I think our trade promotion activities have failed to live up to the main idea of taking Vietnamese products to trade fairs and comparing them with products from other countries. For example, Thailand has played host to international rice fairs for several years, but I don't know why Viet Nam does not attend, while Cambodia, Thailand, Italy and Japan are represented. The main reason is that so far we don't have any registered trade marks for our rice. This is the point. The Ministry of Trade and Industry can help enterprises create their rice trade marks.
As an experienced rice researcher, will you please share with us some experiences on how other countries have developed trade marks for their rice?
Last November, at the sixth International Rice Conference in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's rice was highly valued for its quality, even better than rice from Thailand. A key factor helping Cambodia to gain such a high reputation was support from the International Trade Centre (ITC) through a project to develop a rice trade mark.
Under the project, the ITC helped Cambodia to define a rice variety which has top quality. Next, the ITC supported Cambodia in building a most advanced rice mill and taught Cambodian farmers how to grow the special variety. In addition, the ITC helped eight Cambodian enterprises develop procedures on how to grow the rice.
However, Vietnamese enterprises do not to pay attention to developing their own trade marks. What they do is simply buy rice from traders. The Department of Trade Promotion doesn't have any policies to encourage enterprises to develop trade marks for Vietnamese rice. — VNS