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Improving tea quality to boost exports
31 | 10 | 2007
After conducting a number of fact-finding tours, Vietnamese tea producers have realised that if they fail to improve the quality of their products and ensure food hygiene and safety, they will lose their competitiveness.
Development of tea sector

It is rare to see another place in the world like Vietnam, which is blessed by being able to grow tea virtually everywhere. Apart from the varieties of domestic tea, Vietnam has selected and imported dozens of high-quality tea varieties from India, China, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Japan and Indonesia. The country now processes around 15 different types of tea, including O Long and Lai, which are the most popular in the world.

Previously, Vietnam’s tea output was only a few thousands of tonnes per year due to market instability, poor quality and a lack of proper branding. Despite being exported to more than 100 countries and territories around the world, Vietnamese tea was sold simply as tea and usually bore a foreign trademark. This brought down the price of Vietnamese tea to 20 percent lower than tea from other countries, causing great losses for tea producers and traders.

In recent years, thanks to special attention from the State and great efforts by producers, the tea sector has made remarkable progress, with tea output having increased by hundreds of thousands of tonnes per year.

Currently, approximately 630 producers and plants from 34 provinces and cities grow tea on an area of 125,000 hectares and achieve an annual output of around 577,000 tonnes. Vietnamese tea is now exported to 107 countries in the world, including 68 countries that are members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Among the nearly 60 countries and territories around the world, that consume Vietnamese tea, there are 18 traditional markets, in Asia, America and Europe. Vietnam’s largest export markets are in Pakistan, India, Taipei (China) and Russia.

How to make Vietnamese tea worthy of its position

In the world market, the value of Vietnamese tea is much lower than tea of the same varieties from China, Japan, India and Sri Lanka. Vietnamese tea is sold at low prices, leading to unstable consumption.

According to expert from the Vietnam Tea Association (VTA), this is attributable to low quality products and poor credibility in food hygiene and safety. Therefore tea hygiene and safety is still a big issue in the tea sector. Since early 2007, foreign markets, especially EU markets, have complained about the hygiene and safety standards of Vietnamese tea. In late 2006, especially in the first four months of 2007, China imported large volumes of green tea and did not care about the quality, causing difficulties for the Vietnamese tea sector.

To cope with the situation, the Vietnam Tea Association (VTA) has coordinated with the relevant agencies to encourage its members to produce safe tea and promote their trademark more aggressively. The movement to produce safe tea has yielded significant results in recent years and the quality of tea has been vastly improved. Tea products have also been diversified and tea growers now know it is important to produce high quality tea.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has issued a decision regulating the management, production, and processing of tea and grants certificates to safe tea, creating a firm foundation to build a safe model of tea production in Vietnam.
Tran Van Gia, VTA vice chairman said the decision is a historical turning-point for the tea sector.

Another important measure to improve the quality of Vietnamese tea is that the directors of tea production companies directly penetrate the markets to get an idea of customers tastes.
In recent times, the VTA has arranged for tea enterprises to visit China, Taiwan, Switzerland and the Netherlands to find out about the specific requirements of clients on types of tea as well as the experiences of foreign partners in tea processing, techniques, branding, design, trade promotion and market services. Local tea enterprises realised that if they did not improve the quality of their tea and ensured the hygiene and safety standards they could not compete with foreign partners.

This is a good sign for the Vietnamese tea sector and local tea producers can now hope that Vietnam will soon become a world centre in the tea market. Vietnam will also have the chance to showcase its producers at the Tea Festival, which will be held at Ba Dinh Park in Hanoi in early 2008. This is the biggest festival of tea, attracting 34 domestic producers from across the country, representatives of foreign producers from ASEAN member countries and guests from the 98 countries that import Vietnamese tea.

Source: qdnd.vn
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