|Planting green vegettable in Lao Cai Province. Viet Nam must shift its focus from producing large quantities of agricultural goods to producing quality products. — Photo baolaocai.vn
HCM CITY (VNS)— Viet Nam must shift its focus from producing large quantities of agricultural goods to producing quality products, experts said at a conference on Thursday in HCM City.
Participants discussed the development of production and consumer markets for Vietnamese agricultural products at the event organised by the HCM City International University and Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
Viet Nam will find it difficult to benefit from the numerous free trade agreements, and it risks losing out on its own market if it doesn't take steps to improve its agricultural products, said Professor Nguyen Quoc Vong of Australia's Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.
"Thailand and other countries can defeat Vietnamese products on their home turf, due to their higher quality and more appealing appearance, should the tax barriers be taken down in the future," he said.
Viet Nam fails
Vong noted that global consumer trends were putting more emphasis on high-quality products, safety standards and evidence of origins. The majority of Vietnamese products, however, failed to meet these.
Vietnamese rice, for example, was priced among the lowest in the world, he said. But it was losing out to competitors from Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar who had stronger branding.
Similar problems could also be found with coffee, cashews, pepper and rubber. Unprocessed and sold in their raw forms, Vietnamese products could only be sold at 65 per cent of the world's average prices.
"This is a huge loss for the country, both in trade value and the wasted opportunities for its scientists and experts to contribute to improving quality of the products," Vong said.
Professor Vo Thi Thanh Loc of Can Tho University, a leading agricultural research institution in the Mekong Delta, said the quest to improve Vietnamese agricultural products needed to begin with Government policies that encouraged Vietnamese businesses to invest in agriculture.
"In order to establish value chains and improve product quality, it is absolutely crucial to attract investment from the business sector," Loc said. "One successful business will positively transform the whole region."
She recommended each locality form a market research task force to look for businesses that specialised in trading the locality's products to set up a supply chain in the region.
Other experts at the conference pointed out numerous shortcomings in the country's agricultural production, such as the lack of advanced production technology. Farmers lost an average of 20 per cent of their crop after harvest because they didn't have the technology to store it properly, according to data from HCM City International University.
In addition, the lack of large, capable corporations distributing agricultural products has kept prices unstable. The consequences were severe for farmers, who were hurt by plunging prices after a good harvest or higher prices after a bad one.
They also urged the Government to implement mechanisms to help businesses connect with farmers and establish a supply chain to bring agricultural products directly to consumers.—VNS