RECENT gains in the volume and value of Vietnam’s rice exports can be attributed more to low prices than to better quality or greater market penetration, experts say.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the first six months of this year, rice exports reached 2.8 million tonnes, up 6.3 per cent in quantity and 4.9 per cent in value over the same half last year.
While this marked a recovery after a somewhat quiet period, Trac Trung, director of Vinh Phat Investment Corporation, said the real reason behind the increase was lower prices offered by Vietnam than the region.
Vietnamese businesses did not have enough information regarding the international rice market to increase their own prices in time, he said.
Statistics for the past two months show that at the beginning of May, Vietnamese 5-per-cent broken white rice was priced at about US$350 (Bt11,856) to $354 per tonne, while the same type of rice from a Thai exporter was $390 per tonne, $388 for Indian rice and a whopping $412 for Pakistani rice.
International buyers opted for Vietnamese rice, pushing the turnover way up in June, he said.
This trend is further confirmed by data from the Vietnam Food Association.
Price hikes occurred mostly in the first three months of 2017, while the average price for exported rice since April has been recorded as lower than the previous year, despite the average of six months being $13.2 per tonne higher than the same period in 2016.
Of particular note is that rice export prices dropped $20 per tonne and $11.38 per tonne in April and May over the same months last year.
Vietnamese rice exporters agree that for the first five months, the export market was quiet as businesses had to wait for the government to finish signing contracts with traditional markets like Malaysia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
When the contracts were finalised in June, market prices had already surpassed the quoted prices.
The price for 5-per-cent broken white rice on the open market is estimated at about $405-$410 per tonne, while the price agreed to in the contracts is just $370.