At present, the majority of Vietnamese rice in the UK is trademarked by its distributors, as opposed to the respective rice growing areas or exporters.
Last year saw the rice import volume into the UK rise by 13.5% to 762,526 tonnes from 671,601 tonnes in 2019. Of the figure, rice imports from the Vietnamese market rose from 1,296 tonnes to 3,396 tonnes during the reviewed period.
Overall, Vietnamese rice exports to the UK last year witnessed a dramatic climb of 116% in volume and 106% in value in comparison to 2019. Despite this, the market share of the Vietnamese rice in the UK remains modest, accounting for 0.43% of the total in 2019, and 0.45% in 2020.
The Vietnamese rice is typically sold in the UK through popular trademarks such as Longdan, Golden Lotus, Buffalo, Green Dragon, and Red Ant. These names are trademarked by distributors, as opposed to by rice cultivation areas or exporters.
Nguyen Canh Cuong, trade counsellor at the Vietnamese Embassy to the UK, points to the fact that exporters have so far failed to develop their own trademarks.
Several local distributors believe their own trademarks are more effective in terms of marketing in comparison to those by Vietnamese exporters, says Cuong, adding this is particularly true when Vietnamese rice remains unknown to British consumers.
Furthermore, products bearing the distributor’s trademark as opposed to the manufacturer’s branding is a common business practice in the UK.
Cuong also notes that in a competitive environment which favours local importers rather than foreign exporters, Vietnamese exporters are often more willing to accept unbranded rice and then let distributors use their own trademarks.
Various industry experts believe that Vietnam must strive to create a rice trademark for a number of high-quality local rice varieties such as ST24 and ST25 under cultivation in Soc Trang and other localities. Alternatively, they could bear the name of rice cross-breeders like Ho Quang Cua as they register protection for their rice trademark in foreign countries.
Engineer Ho Quang Cua and his Vietnamese colleagues have successfully cross-bred ST25 variety which was honoured as the World's Best Rice in 2019.
Although ST25 rice was named as the best rice in the world, it remains an obscure brand to British people due to inadequacies in the marketing strategies being implemented in the UK market, say experts.
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