Beverage firms seek sugar imports despite local surplus in Vietnam

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Food and beverage companies in Vietnam are seeking government permission to import a total of 268,000 tons of sugar even though local stockpiles of the sweetener are growing.

The companies, including Coca Cola, Friesland Campina and Vinacafe, plan to import between 14,000 and 25,000 tons of sugar each, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Do Thanh Liem, vice chairman of the Vietnam Sugar and Sugarcane Association, said imported sugar is now cheaper than domestic products due to low import tariffs. This is the reason why many companies refuse to buy local sugar, he said.

Several food companies, however, said they prefer imported sugar because supply of local products was not stable and prices keep fluctuating.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Thanh Bien said the sugar association needs to negotiate with local companies first, and then the ministry will decide whether or not to allow the imports.

Meanwhile, Vietnam's agriculture ministry said it has requested the government to allow sugar exports of around 100,000 tons to help clear stockpiles. It also proposed more loans to domestic companies to store 200,000 tons of refined sugar for three months starting in May.

Vietnam is expected to produce 1.45 million tons of refined sugar in 2012. The sugar association expects a surplus of up to 300,000 tons.

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