Vietnam plans to earn at least $2 billion in revenue from agro-food exports to the European Union by 2010. The pledge comes in the face of tough trade, health and safety regulations imposed by the EU authorities, which should make the ambition all the more challenging.
According to the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development, the country is aiming for agro-products to account for around 30 percent of Vietnam's $6-7 billion export target, says Pham Tho Tuoc, deputy director of the Ministry's Planning and Zoning Department.
Agro-products, including coffee, tea, vegetables and honey, to the EU - a figure that the ministry believes would be easy to significantly increase if market conditions are favourable.
An Agriculture Ministry report shows Vietnamese farm produce exports to the EU reached $577 million in 2003, accounting for 18 per cent of the nation?s total agricultural exports and an increase of $78 million over totals from 2002.
In order to realise their ambitious goal, tighter and more synchronised cooperation will be needed between the State, farmers, businesses and specialist associations, Tuoc said, adding that producers of food companies wanting to export to Europe should invest in advanced technology to improve product quality.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has asked the nation's leading exporters to consider opening representative offices or showrooms in EU countries.
Coffee is currently Vietnam's largest export product to the EU. In 2003, Vietnam exported 391,000 tonnes of coffee valued at $262 million, as much as 50 per cent of the country's total coffee volume. In turn Vietnam' robusta coffee has won a firm foothold in Germany, with coffee giants, such as Kraft Foods, Nestle and Sara Lee turning to Vietnamese coffee producers for their mixed products.
She said that while coffee export volume is encouraging, it meets only 4-5 per cent of the EU's demand, indicating that much of the market remains untapped. Likewise tea exports to the EU also remain a tiny - 5,000 tons exported a year, compared to the annual total of 470,000 tons - also indicating huge potential for Vietnamese producers.
However, the Ministry has pointed out that the EU's strict quality and preservative requirements, together with Vietnam's poor trade promotion and high transportation fees, have hindered agro-food products. In answer to this it now requires farmers and businesses to control their produce quality as well as pesticide residue in accordance with EU quality and environmental regulations.