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Fruits, vegetables may give nation’s growers an edge over neighbours
10 | 10 | 2007
Thoi bao Kinh te Viet Nam (Vietnam Economic Times) newspaper spoke with Bui Chi Buu, director of the Southern Science and Technology Institute, about rice and produce exports.

It is said that Vietnamese rice exports are priced US$20 a tonne lower than Thailand’s rice exports. What are your thoughts on this?

There are many reasons for this. First, Thailand has a smaller population than Viet Nam, so food consumption is lower. At the same time, Thailand has 10 million hectares of rice, which yield 26 million tonnes of rice per year.

In Viet Nam, however, there are only four million hectares and three seasons, yielding 36.6 million tonnes of rice. Eighty four million people depend on this rice, so clearly Viet Nam must choose a means of production that assures high volume output over a short duration with acceptable quality.

Thailand’s rice is more expensive than Viet Nam’s because Thailand possesses better post harvest technology. In order to improve Vietnamese rice quality, we must invest more in the process and in the technology.

Why don’t Vietnamese scientists create new rice varieties of higher quality, at least as good as the traditional strains in order to elicit a higher return?

Local rice is clearly excellent, but we can’t grow it over a single large area. This kind of rice allows for only one growing season. Meanwhile, a large population requires a large output.

What should we do to increase the value and quality of rice in order to benefit more farmers?

The Government’s goal in exporting rice is to set up a price structure ensuring farmers can make a good living.

Viet Nam’s rice exports total over $1 billion per year. Thailand’s rice exports are $2-3 billion. The world market for rice is $9 billion.

If we compare the $9 billion value of rice on the world market to the $160 billion value of vegetables and fruit, we should see the potential for investing in other markets.

At present, we export only $200-300 million worth of vegetables per year. The growth potential is quite large. Estimates suggest that we can produce 116kg of vegetables per person, but each person only requires 90kg.

Two promising potential markets are China and South Korea because these countries lack temperate weather conditions ideal for growing produce. The problem is that we have not yet established any protocols in this area.

So, exporting vegetables may bring greater benefits than rice. However, with a production volume of 36 million tonnes of rice per year, we can still surpass Thailand if we want to become very competitive with our rice. This year alone, we plan to export just under 4.5 million tonnes of rice. Thailand produces 28 million tonnes per year, but it exports only 8 million. Overall the two things most affecting rice prices this year are an increase in transport fees and the fines incurred from delayed orders.

Source: Vietnam News
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