Enhancing Vietnamese agricultural products through strategic brand building

VCN - The cornerstone for branding Vietnamese agricultural products lies in maintaining consistent and stable quality on a large scale. This approach will not only boost competitiveness but also elevate the value of these products in international markets. The initiative to build a national brand for Vietnamese agricultural products, though initiated late, is a step in the right direction. It focuses on creating brands within the agricultural product processing ecosystem for export. Leveraging the EVFTA is crucial to augment sustainable value for exported agricultural products.
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Branding: A Crucial Lever for Vietnamese Agricultural Products' Competitiveness. Photo: TL
Branding: A Crucial Lever for Vietnamese Agricultural Products' Competitiveness. Photo: TL

Policy gaps in agricultural branding

Vietnam boasts 11 commodity groups with export turnovers exceeding 1 billion USD, including 7 groups (wood, wood products, shrimp, coffee, rice, rubber, fruits, cashews) with turnovers over 3 billion USD, marking their presence in major global markets like the US, EU, and Japan. However, data from the Institute of Agricultural Policy and Strategy Development indicates that 90% of these products are exported in raw form, yielding lower values compared to similar products from other countries; the country lacks strong, globally recognized brands. Ms. Nguyen Mai Huong, Deputy Director at the Center for Rural Development, IPSARD, notes that about 20 policy documents and programs address agricultural brand development. Yet, these regulations are overly general, and products are dispersed across various decisions without cohesive interlinkage. Brand development transcends mere logos and labels; it involves multiple industries. Presently, of 325 products from 172 enterprises recognized as national brands, less than 30 are in agriculture, forestry, and aquaculture.

Vietnam currently has only 2 products among 13 key national agricultural commodities with registered protection in Vietnam - "Vietnamese Rubber" by the Vietnam Rubber Association and "Vietnamese Rice" by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Other products like coffee, shrimp, and catfish are in the process of brand development. The application for the certification mark for high-quality Vietnamese coffee is pending due to the absence of legal frameworks and a national naming management system.

From that reality, Ms. Huong points out significant policy gaps in developing agricultural brands, such as the lack of a cohesive national strategy, leading to resource dispersion. The management and development of these brands are ineffective, lacking capable entities for proper management and exploitation. Moreover, strategies for market access, quality, and production planning related to brand building are underemphasized; brand management remains flawed. The information system and market connectivity are limited, focusing mainly on market prices and neglecting other crucial market aspects like demand and preferences.

Quality as the foundation of branding

Recent incidents, like the destruction of Vietnamese durian and chili shipments in Japan due to residue issues, have impacted the reputation of Vietnamese agricultural products. Experts stress that brand development for agricultural products necessitates policies promoting scientific and technological applications to ensure product quality.

Regarding this, Mr. Ta Manh Cuong, Head of the Capacity Development and Trade Promotion Division at the Ministry of Industry and Trade, questions why Vietnam's superior products struggle to compete globally. He advocates a policy shift towards quality and broad-scale quality assurance to establish industry brands. "Small-scale production limits competitive ability and fails to fulfill large orders. Inconsistent quality also results in lower selling prices," he remarks. F

rom a business standpoint, Mr. Vo Quan Huy, Director of Huy Long An Co., Ltd., asserts that a brand's foundation must be its genuine value. This requires standardized production processes, traceable from inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and plant protection products, starting from agricultural material suppliers.

Mr. Nguyen Dinh Tung, Director of Vina T&T Import-Export Company, calls for measures to safeguard legitimate businesses that invest in and collaborate with farmers for brand development. Ms. Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, Chairwoman of the Transparent Food Association, believes in a united approach for sustainable branding: "Competing on price to the point of quality reduction and dishonesty is detrimental. Brands should unite stakeholders under common rules, standards, and internal controls, creating a strong community. This approach mirrors the success of countries with established national brands."

Mr. Tran Giang Khue, Deputy Head of the Southern Representative Office, Intellectual Property Office, Ministry of Science and Technology, underscores intellectual property's role in international integration. Building agricultural product brands necessitates attention to variety copyright and the enhancement of plant variety protection.

By Khai Ky/Tran Minh

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