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Africa promising rice market but problems, say exporters   2008-11-26 - Thanh Nien

Africa is a promising market for Vietnamese rice exporters but long distances and associated costs and payment delays have discouraged them from exploring the continent, according to a meeting Tuesday.



Doan Duy Khuong, Vice Chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), told African, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Lao rice industry executives attending a meeting held by the International Organization of Francophonie (OIF) that mainly small-and medium-sized exporters struggle to cope with these problems.

Huynh Minh Hue, secretary general of Vietnam Food Association, said, “Unfortunately, rice exporters have no direct links with importers in [Africa] and shipped rice through intermediaries.”

The meeting was held to establish direct links between rice sellers in the Greater Mekong Sub-region and buyers from Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).

Tharcisse Urayeneza, director of OIF’s Sustainable Development and Solidarity, said food prices are increasing and people in poor countries are suffering. “Intermediaries also contributed to the hike in rice prices.”

Macaria Barai, vice president of Guinea Bissau’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, said rice is the main food crop in her west African nation, which imports rice from India and Thailand to meet half its demand.

“As we know Vietnamese rice is good quality and cheaper than in other countries, we want to have direct contact with local producers and import rice from Vietnam,” she told Thanh Nien Daily.

Her chamber has asked for assistance from OIF and African banks to boost rice import from Vietnam.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Le Duong Quang said African countries should step up trade with Vietnam by setting up bilateral agreements or financing systems.

Vietnam has a rice surplus and exporters target the African market to diversify away from their traditional markets in the US, Europe and Japan which are facing an economic slowdown.

Africa, which imports about 9 million tons of rice a year, is eyeing Asia for rice imports with focus on Vietnam and Pakistan, the world’s leading exporters of low-priced rice, according to Reuters.

Vietnam has exported more than 4 million tons, including 1 million tons to Africa, in the year to date, according to the ministry. It said member states in UEMOA and CEMAC imported US$121 million and $30 million worth rice from Vietnam in the first nine months.

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