Phuong said he had just attended the Rice Dubai 2011 Exhibition in the United Arab Emirates as part of his trade promotion trip to the Middle Eastern country earlier this month.
He said the Vietnamese booth in the exhibition had attracted the attention of many international businesses, with around 200 foreign companies visiting the booth and exchanging information with local businesses.
“We managed to sell out all of the products we brought to the fair,” Phuong said, adding that many corporations from the UAE said they are willing to buy Vietnamese agricultural products and invest in Vietnam.
Phuong said some local businesses had also managed to sign new contracts on the spot at the fair.
For instance, he said, two An Giang-based food processors had contracted to export a total of 27,500 tons of rice.
“A local company also inked a deal to export five containers of canned seafood to the UAE monthly, while another signed a contract with a Dubai partner on pepper exports,” he said.
He added that although Vietnamese agricultural products have for the first time been introduced to the Middle East market, they received special attention at the event.
“This is a good chance for local exporters to further exploit this potential market.”
He said millionaire Mahendra Patel, chairman of the GEAP Group, a diverse group of companies involved in various industries in the Middle East, had signed a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam to allow the latter to use a building in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Free Zone to establish a distribution center for Vietnamese goods.
“We had not expected to have such a golden opportunity,” Phuong added.
“Around 6,200 enterprises from 120 countries are operating in JAFZA, a free economic zone, which is the gateway for global exports to enter the Middle East and North African markets.”
He added that under the two parties’ agreement, GEAP Group will buy Vietnamese products and use its GEAP Foods distribution network to bring the goods to other countries in the region.
“This will be a trade promotion center of Vietnam in the Middle East,” Phuong stated, adding that the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors would be assigned to take over the building.
The minister said millionaire Ali Mousa, chairman of the FAM Holdings Group, would set up an investment fund for investors from Dubai to operate in Vietnam, especially in the agricultural sector.
Phuong said Vietnamese businesses should research export procedures, technical barriers, and food safety and hygiene regulations, as well as payment methods to grab the chance to enter the Middle East market.
“If local exporters can make good use of this opportunity, the Middle East and North Africa will become very important markets for Vietnamese rice and other agricultural products,” he said.
At a time when the rice exporting sector is facing difficulties, accessing new markets will help stabilize prices in the domestic market, Phuong explained.
“Thus, the government should increase trade promotion to this market by organizing trade exhibitions, or supporting local businesses to open representative offices for customer meetings in Dubai,” he urged.