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Vietnam exported more than 4.5 million tonnes of rice in the first nine months of this year for US$2 billion, up 19.6% in volume and 18% in value year on year, but its dependance on the Chinese market brings latent risks.

According to the Vietnam Food Association, China consumed 38 percent of total rice exported from Vietnam with more than 1.5 million tonnes worth over US$700 million, followed by the Philippines with over 400,000 tonnes and Malaysia with more than 360,000 tonnes.

A surge in demand in Asia from June this year pushed rice prices to above US$400 per tonne, which also helped boost the domestic rice price.

Lam Anh Tuan, Director of Ben Tre-based Thinh Phat food company, said that along with the Chinese market, the Philippines and Bangladesh also have high demand for Vietnamese rice. However, he noted that Vietnamese firms should be careful in bidding for contracts in these markets.

Noting the stability of African markets, Dang Thi Lien, Director of Long An food company said that along with major markets in Asia, her firm has contracts with African partners.

While choosy markets such as the US, Europe and Japan are difficult to conquer, China is a promising market for Vietnamese farm produce, including rice. But experts said that focusing only on this market brings many risks, as China is encouraging farmers to increase rice production to reduce dependence on imported rice.

They advised domestic firms to develop new markets such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Philippines, while building rice trademarks.

Tuan said that as all countries are striving to become self-reliant in rice supply, Vietnamese firms should diversify their market

US, Europe and Japan