VN farm exports have big potential

Thursday, Aug 03, 2017 10:10

KORCHAM vice chairman Hong Sun

As an important trading with a strong agriculture sector, Viet Nam has great potential to become a strategic exporter of agricultural products to the Republic of Korea (RoK), Hong Sun, vice chairman of the Korean Chamber of Business in Viet Nam, tells Viet Nam News reporter Nguyen Phuong Thao

How do you assess the export potential of Vietnamese agricultural products, as well as Korean interest in this sector?

The Republic of Korea has an area of 100,000sq.m, nearly one third of Viet Nam. However, the population of RoK is quite large at over 52 million. Therefore, Korean demand for food products is significant. Due to inadequate food supply from domestic producers, RoK depends heavily on imports of agricultural products.

Korea has been importing a large number of agricultural products from China for many years; however, Korean customers are not as interested in Chinese goods anymore due to low standards and bad quality.

Currently, the RoK government is seeking strategic partners for providing agricultural products to meet increasing demand of the Korean people.

Viet Nam is one of RoK’s most important trade partners and an agricultural country. Therefore, Viet Nam has great potential to become a strategic exporter of agriculture products to Korea. Furthermore, since the Viet Nam – Korea Free Trade Agreement came into effect in December 2015, Viet Nam has more advantages in exporting goods to the RoK.

What would you say are the main obstacles for Vietnamese firms in exporting agriculture products to the RoK market?

From Viet Nam’s side, the biggest obstacle is the lack of large scale, hi-tech farms that meet quality standards. With the current model of small-sized farms and households being the main production units, it is difficult for the country’s suppliers to satisfy Korean market in quantity as well as variety.

Then, the RoK government is very strict about quarantining food products. At present, RoK only accepts dragon fruit and mangoes from Viet Nam.

Korea also needs lemon, avocado and many types of herbs, but Vietnamese products still face quarantine obstacles.

In the coming time, Vietnamese exporters should co-operate with Korean importers and get information and advice on quarantine issues. For example, they should get information about which kinds of pesticides or fertilisers should be avoided for exporting produce to the Korean market.

Currently, the RoK imports a lot of agricultural products from China. Can the increasing interest in Vietnamese agricultural products be sustained? What should Vietnamese farmers and enterprises do to sustain this interest?

China’s products do not meet the taste of Korean customers. People buy them only because of low prices. However, cheap prices often go parallel with bad quality and cheating, like using prohibited chemicals.

The Korean Government has discovered some cases of cheating in imported Chinese goods. For instance, Chinese importers put lead into crabs to make them heavier, and this has led to decreasing confidence in Chinese products.

Food has a direct, significant impact on human health, so if you lose your reputation once, it is difficult to win customers’ trust the second time.

Therefore, Viet Nam should strictly follow the policies and regulations when exporting products to the RoK, building trust and reputation for “Made in Viet Nam” products.

How can the Korea Chamber of Business in Viet Nam (KORCHAM) support Vietnamese exporters?

KORCHAM, in accordance with Korean Agriculture and Food Distribution Association in Viet Nam (KAFDA), are supporting Korean enterprises in approaching Viet Nam’s agriculture market.

KORCHAM’s representatives have emphasised the important position of Viet Nam in talks with the Korean government, promoting trade co-operation between the two countries.

From our experience, we have found that Viet Nam lacks “product collection centres” where agricultural products can be gathered, classified and packaged, serving both domestic demand and exports.

Moreover, the “cold chain” is considered one of the most significant systems in developing agriculture. The Vietnamese Government should co-ordinate with related ministries, departments and local agencies to set up “cold chain” systems all over the country.

At present, one Korean enterprise is discussing with the RoK government a proposal to support Viet Nam in establishing the product collection centres. However, I cannot reveal that company’s identity yet.

The number of RoK enterprises investing in Viet Nam has increased significantly. How do you evaluate trade relations between the two countries?

There are over 6,000 Korean enterprises in Viet Nam at present, and this number will increase significantly if supported by the Vietnamese Government.

During the visit of South Korean (former) president Park Geun Hye to Viet Nam in 2013, leaders of both countries targeted a bilateral trade turnover of US$70 billion by 2020.

However, this year, the two sides have increased this target to $100 billion, thanks to successful and effective co-operation over recent years.

We also encourage Korean firms, when investing in Viet Nam, to look at long-term instead of short-term benefits. We ask Korean businesses to follow all Vietnamese laws and pay attention to their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) so as to become strategic partners in the long run. — VNS


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