Rice industry must diversify products: experts
Despite having great potential, Vietnamese rice-based products remain rudimentary and unpolished, severely hampering their ability to compete on the global market, according to industry experts.
While Vietnamese rice has found its way to more than 150 countries around the world it has been having difficulty in entering the high-value segment of the markets, according to deputy head of trade promotion department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT) Tran Thanh Hai.
Hai said it's important for Viet Nam to diversify its rice offerings and to come up with add-valued products using the latest technologies. Not only will this allow Vietnamese rice to find additional markets it will also make Vietnamese rice more competitive and less dependent on traditional buyers.
Prof. Vu Nguyen Thanh, head of the MoIT's Food Industries Research Institute, said there were many other products made from rice including rice-based milk, juice and drinks that could fetch much higher value compared to noodle-based products.
These products have a wide range of applications in health care and beauty care, said Thanh. He insisted on the need for the rice industry to establish a set of standards to ensure top rice quality as the foundation for product innovation and to attract investments.
In addition, he recommended firms simultaneously invest in R&D activities and seek potential markets for such products, saying these are both key elements in the long-term development of the industry.
Expert on agricultural products Hoang Trong Thuy said firms must conduct extensive studies on target markets and consumers to grasp a firm understanding of regulations and consumer habits.
"Ideally, in the long run, local firms will start forming their own alliances," said Thuy.
According to the Department of Agro-Processing and Market Development under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), Viet Nam's exports of rice and the rice-based product look set to experience rapid growth in the near future, especially due to the EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). The trade deal will see the EU's tariff for Vietnamese rice reduced to zero within three to five years.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Nguyen Xuan Cuong said the country must focus on the production of high-value rice products including rice milk, oil and brown rice.
"It's time the country's rice industry produces more than just rice and aims to add more value to its products through product refinement and innovation," said Cuong.
He said the agriculture ministry has been working on policies and frameworks to encourage firms to invest more in R&D and processing technologies.