Vietnam reported its third consecutive year of trade surplus in 2014 with a larger portion of that pie being enjoyed by local businesses.
According to government data, Vietnam enjoyed a US$2.4 billion trade surplus in 2014 by mid-December, up from $863 million the previous year and $284 million in 2012.
Seafood, coffee, cashew nuts, fruit and vegetable exports all rose by between 20 to 40 percent in terms of revenue.
Vietnam’s major customers such as the US, Japan and the EU bought a further 10 to 21 percent.
Seafood exports increased around 19 percent, the highest in three years, to nearly $7.5 billion.
But exporters said that in 2014 they focused on producing high-quality vegetables to fetch picky, high-value consumers and they’ve enjoyed stable growth as a result.
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Fruit and vegetable exports meanwhile increased 40.3 percent from 2013 to $1.36 billion.
Huynh Quang Dau, chairman of An Giang Fruit, Vegetables and Foodstuff JSC in the namesake province in southern Vietnam, said his company alone made a revenue of over US$12 million in 2014, up 17 percent from the previous year.
Dau said they exported more than 11,000 tons of canned and frozen veggies in 2014, to countries such as the US, Japan, Canada, and the EU.
“Export turnovers from fruit and vegetables are not very significant compared to other sectors, but it means a lot that so much of the world wants our tropical fruits and vegetables,” he said.
Economist Le Dang Doanh said the export picture reflects the efforts Vietnamese businesses have made to overcome their difficulties and re-establish production.
Exports from foreign-owned businesses grew by 26.3 percent in 2013, a year when exports at local firms grew by a mere 1.5 percent.
In 2014, domestic firms saw a 13 percent bump in exports, despite a decline in fuel and ore sectors.
Doanh said domestic businesses made tremendous efforts to go from 1.5 percent to 13 percent, a figure that was nearly equal to the 14.1 percent growth experienced among foreign-owned businesses.
“The domestic businesses have recovered and are growing again. They contributed a lot to the trade surplus of 2014,” Doanh said.
Dau, who is also vice chairman of the Vietnam Food and Vegetables Association, said he is confident the country will see further growth among locally-owned businesses in 2015.
He said the world consumes around a hundred billion dollars of fruits and vegetables a year, and Vietnam’s current piece of that pie is tiny.
The upcoming free trade agreements such as the TPP with the US, Japan, Australia and other Pacific countries will provide Vietnam access to more markets, he said.
According to various four-year trade pacts that will go into effect starting Thursday, Vietnam will enjoy lower import tariffs from other ASEAN members, China, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Nguyen Van Kich, director of Cafatex which is a seafood exporter in the southern province of Hau Giang, also believes in further growth in 2015 based on forecasts that the global oil prices will continue to drop.
Vietnam is a fuel importer, which will help production cost to go down.