Cassava industry seeks solutions to increase export value

VIETNAM, April 19 –

Exports of cassava and cassava products currently account for about 70% of total production with a turnover of nearly US$1.2 billion. Photo

By Tố Như

HÀ NỘI Diversifying markets and taking advantage of free trade agreement (FTA) tariff quotas are solutions for the country’s cassava industry to boost exports and ensure sustainable development, a conference heard.

Ranked second in terms of global export turnover, cassava and cassava-based products are among Việt Nam’s top 13 agricultural export products, making the country the world’s third-largest exporter after Thailand and Vietnam. Cambodia.

The outstanding record of Vietnam’s cassava industry was highlighted at a recent conference held in the Central Highlands Province of Pleiku town of Gia Lai by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) in collaboration with the Provincial People’s Committee of Gia Lai.

The conference analyzed the current situation and development direction of the industry, while discussing solutions to promote the economic value of cassava.

Exports of cassava and cassava products currently account for about 70% of total production with a turnover of nearly US$1.2 billion.

However, the industry faces obstacles in improving production and ensuring sustainable development.

The conference revealed that many cassava factories, especially small-scale ones, use rudimentary technologies, some of them are even obsolete and have no waste treatment measures. This has resulted in low investment efficiency and environmental impacts.

In addition, there are not many cassava varieties with high yield, good quality, high starch content and resistance to leaf mosaic disease.

A recent conference held in the central highlands province of Pleiku city of Gia Lai by MARD in collaboration with the Provincial People’s Committee of Gia Lai analyzed the situation and development direction of the cassava industry. VNA/VNS Photo Hồng Điệp

From the market point of view, Nguyễn Quốc Toản, director of the Agricultural Products Processing and Market Development Department in MARD, said that the coordination between cassava factories and farmers is not close enough as long as both in terms of mechanisms and advantages.

Meanwhile, purchasing methods and selling prices are not flexible and therefore cannot encourage farmers to grow cassava, especially those located in areas close to factories, according to Toản.

Unstable export prices, weak export markets dependent on foreign countries and the absence of policies to protect cassava producers in remote areas are some of the obstacles facing the cassava industry, did he declare.

The Department of Crop Production (DCP) reported in 2021 that the country’s cassava cultivation area reached 528,000 ha. The central highlands have the largest area with 172,500 ha, accounting for 32.7% of the country’s total cassava area.

In 2021, the country’s average yield was 20.3 tons/ha, with a production of nearly 10.7 million tons. Exports reached nearly 2.9 million tons, worth around $1.2 billion, up 2.4% in volume and 16.5% in value from 2020.

Currently, 120 cassava starch processing factories are operating in 27 provinces with a total capacity of more than 8.6 million tons of fresh tubers/year.

Permanent vice president of the Vietnam Cassava Association, Nghiêm Minh Tiến, said the speed of development of the industry has witnessed a rapid increase over the past 10 years.

Cassava is the third most important food crop in Việt Nam after rice and maize, attracting 1.2 million growers, many of whom are from ethnic minorities.

Speaking at the conference, MARD Deputy Minister Lê Quốc Doanh affirmed the role of cassava, saying that it not only helps to reduce local poverty, but has also become a staple crop. .

To sustainably develop cassava in the future, Doanh suggested focusing on scientific research and promoting international cooperation to find disease-free and disease-resistant varieties of cassava, thereby helping to reduce input production costs.

“We need to do something to help farmers access these cassava varieties. I instruct the Plant Protection Department to come up with more production processes to create a chain of disease-free and resistant cassava varieties,” Doanh pointed out.

In addition, said the Deputy Minister of MARD, cassava processing factories should innovate in technologies to diversify products, expand material fields and thoroughly solve the problems of waste treatment during production, ensuring safety. environmental.

Links between growing areas and processing plants should be strengthened along with the reorganization of production focused on the development of cooperatives, according to Doanh.

“The DCP is responsible for coordinating with relevant units to develop a project on cassava production while mobilizing available local resources for sustainable development until 2030,” Doanh said.

Strong growth but challenges ahead

According to the General Department of Customs, cassava and cassava products were among the agricultural products that maintained a growth rate in both production and export turnover during the year. elapsed.

During the first months of 2022, after a decline in January and February, exports of cassava and cassava products tended to increase again in March with an estimate of around 450,000 tons, worth of $202 million, up 80.6% in volume and 97.1% in volume. value compared to February.

Total exports of cassava and cassava products in the first three months of 2022 were estimated at around 970,000 tonnes, worth US$420 million, down 0.6% in volume, but up 15.5% in value compared to the same period in 2021.

However, experts have warned of challenges for the industry to increase consumption in domestic and global markets.

The domestic cassava market is speculative and has many intermediate stages, each involving many factors, which makes it quite complicated and causes fierce competition in buying and selling.

At the same time, export markets are still limited and mainly dependent on China, which accounts for more than 95% of total production. It has also faced fierce competition from Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, especially as China increases its imports from Laos and Cambodia.

Dependence almost entirely on the Chinese market leads to unsustainable and passive development for the industry.

Việt Nam’s domestic competition in the global market is still weak because its cassava and cassava products have to rely on many intermediaries, and logistics costs are higher than those of Thailand and China.

Another paradox raised by the director of the DCP, Nguyễn Như Cường, concerns domestic consumption. About 30% of the total cassava production is used for food processing, animal feed and as input to other industries such as alcohol, monosodium glutamate, instant noodles and confectionery.

“In fact, we still have to import quite a lot of raw materials for animal feed and food processing,” he said.

The Import-Export Department of the Ministry of Industry and Trade predicts that in 2022, Mainland China will increase the demand for cassava and cassava products imported from Việt Nam. However, exports to mainland China will face challenges due to a series of new regulations and standards enforced by the General Administration of China Customs from early 2022.

Currently, cassava and cassava products from Việt Nam are mainly exported to mainland China, but more than 65% of them are delivered through border posts in Lạng Sơn, Quảng Ninh and Lào Cai provinces.

The Import-Export Department recommends that cassava exporters switch to the official export regime.

Besides maintaining the market in mainland China, Toản suggested focusing more on expanding to large and demanding markets such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

Notably, according to the EU-Vietnam FTA, cassava starch is the second product benefiting from a duty-free quota after rice, at 30,000 tonnes/year.

Vietnam’s cassava industry has currently not taken advantage of these TRQ opportunities to expand export markets to countries and regions that have signed FTAs ​​for exports of cassava and cassava products, the minister said. responsible. VNS

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