Foreign firms allowed to export rice for the first time

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Vietnam has granted new rice export licenses to 44 companies, including four foreign-invested firms, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

Applications from five more companies are pending, the news agency quoted Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Nguyen Thanh Bien as saying. Together, these 49 firms will account for 70 percent of Vietnam's rice exports, he said.

This is the first time that foreign firms have received rice export licenses, but Bien allayed concerns that they could turn out to be too strong for local exporters to compete against. Vietnamese firms allowed to export rice will be eligible for low-interest loans and there will be fair competition, he said.

The licensing is part of a new policy that takes effect October 1. The government says the new policy would improve management of rice exports.

Vietnam now has more than 200 rice exporters, but only 70 to 80 companies are expected to receive the new export license, the Vietnam Food Association said.

It said requirements on storage and production facilities will help eliminate small traders that ship very small quantities of the grain, sometimes just one ton each every year.

According to the association, Vietnam shipped 4.61 million tons of rice during the first seven months, up 16.7 percent in terms of volume from a year ago. Export revenues reached $2.18 billion, a 26 percent increase over the same period last year.

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