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VN tea needs better marketing to increase exports
08 | 08 | 2007
Vietnamese tea labels need better international advertising campaigns if they are going to make a dent on overseas markets, say industry insiders.

After debuting on European markets more than a century ago under the French CheViet label, Vietnamese tea is finally being sold under local trademarks.

But a lack of international awareness of Vietnamese brands is holding back the industry, according to Dilhan Fernando, Marketing Director of the foreign-owned MJF tea company in Viet Nam.

The Vietnamese tea sector has strongly developed and production could reach US$1 billion by 2020, according to Nguyen Van Thu, Deputy Chairman of the Vietnamese Tea Association.

"In 2006, Viet Nam exported over 105,000 tonnes of tea, with a turnover of US$111.6 million," says Trang Hieu Dung, director of the planning department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

This was despite the export price of tea being five per cent lower last year on the previous 12 months at $1,055 per tonne.

The quality of Vietnamese tea has also dramatically improved in the last two years.

Foreign-owned and joint venture companies, predominantly from Russia, Japan and Taiwan, have helped develop Viet Nam’s tea industry by bringing in advanced processing technologies and introducing the country’s tea makers to new blends with more refined flavours.

Many new tea breeds have also been planted, strengthening both the quality and the quantity of the tea produced.

All this is despite the fact that the scattered tea planting method is still used in Viet Nam and much of the harvesting is done by hand.

But simply improving quality is not enough, says Fernando.

Viet Nam produces many different kinds of good quality tea, but these high quality products have not yet been seen on the market.

Viet Nam needs an international advertising campaign to market its trademarks and labels, and not just to improve production, he says.

Vietnamese tea producers are slowly becoming more marketing savvy though, with packaging quality and the range of products available increasing, Nguyen Van Thu says.

Some local tea company owners now make as much as VND280 million (US$17,500) per hectare per year — equal to that earned in countries with highly developed and industrialised tea industries.

Viet Nam currently produces 15 types of tea, with black tea accounting for 60 per cent of exports.

Eight enterprises are registered with the Vietnamese Tea Association to sell their products locally and overseas.

According to the Vietnamese Tea Association, 125,000ha in 34 provinces and cities nation-wide are devoted to tea growing, and 600 plants produce dry tea.

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