Vietnam sells less rice, but border trade skyrockets

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A farmer harvests rice in the Mekong Delta. Photo courtesy of Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon Online

Even as rice exports plunged in 2013, border trade surged, a trend likely to cost Vietnam more time and effort to develop brands and boost value.

Figures from the Vietnam Food Association showed that rice exports by companies totaled 6.45 million tons at more than US$2.78 billion by December 26, or 1.1 million tons lower than in the previous year, Thoi bao Kinh te Saigon Online reported.

Average prices were down around 5 percent to $432 a ton.

But overland export to China shot up fourfold to 1.4-1.6 million tons.

China is Vietnam's biggest customer, buying 32 percent of its rice exports, followed by Africa with 30 percent.

The association said increasing orders from China and Africa failed to compensate for dropping interest from traditional customers in Southeast Asia like Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh said many Vietnamese exporters depend increasingly on border trade since it is easy in terms of quality.

But this makes it hard to build big brands, he warned.

Besides, border trade can be risky since it depends more on importers' policies rather than international trade rules, he warned further.

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