|Up to 80% of Vietnamese agricultural products are exported under the name of foreign enterprises. Photo: Nguyen Thanh|
However, Vietnamese-branded exports are still quite difficult. The drastic involvement of state management agencies, associations, industries as well as enterprises themselves is very necessary to “patch” the gaps in building and protecting the brand name of exported agricultural products in the future.
Exports without names
When ST25 rice was registered for trademark protection by many businesses in the US and Australia, the Ministry of Industry and Trade provided more information related to rice exports in the UK market.
Specifically, the Ministry said that in the past, especially in 2020, rice exports to the UK recorded a spectacular growth of more than 100%, but most Vietnamese rice in the UK carries the brand of the distributor, not the brand trademark of the rice growing area or the trademark of the exporter. The reason is that the exporter has not made a brand or the local distributor thinks that their own brand is more effective in marketing than the brand of the Vietnamese exporter, especially when the Vietnamese rice brand is not known by local consumers.
In a competitive environment that favors local importers more than foreign exporters, Vietnamese exporters are often willing to accept unbranded rice for distributors to use their own brands.
According to the National Office of Intellectual Property (Ministry of Science and Technology), Vietnam has nearly 1,000 specialty products in all regions that can be registered for geographical and trademark protection. However, for a long time, up to 80% of Vietnamese agricultural products are “unknown” and exported under the name of foreign enterprises.
Talking to a reporter from Customs News, agricultural expert Hoang Trong Thuy said that in general, the problem of agricultural brands is easy to see the dominant gray color and less bright colors. Building and protecting Vietnam’s agricultural product brands over the past decades have taken still majestic steps but are still “stagnant”. That makes Vietnamese agricultural products sometimes fall into the situation of being counterfeited by foreign merchants or enterprises or registered to lose their trademark. The brand name of agricultural products is lost; the process of reclaiming Vietnamese enterprises has to pay too high a price.
Phu Quoc fish sauce, Trung Nguyen coffee and Ben Tre coconut candy are typical examples.
Building and protecting
Mr. Vu Xuan Truong, a brand expert (Institute for Brand Strategy and Competition), said that Vietnam has laid the initial foundations for famous agricultural product brands, but the branding and development haven’t achieved much. In particular, the protection of agricultural product brands in Vietnam still has many shortcomings.
Mr. Truong said that to support brand building for enterprises, at the macro level, Vietnam has the Vietnam National Brand Program which was established in 2003. However, it is noteworthy that Vietnamese enterprises are still quite indifferent to this program. Some statistics show that up to 80% of Vietnamese businesses only spend 5% of their sales on building and developing brands. That is an important reason why Vietnam’s agricultural products, despite their high quality, have not yet found a worthy position in both domestic and international markets.
Tran Duc Son, Director of Sipco Law Firm, said: “Many Vietnamese agricultural products have encountered similar cases to the recent ST25 rice case. Vietnam is famous for its exported agricultural products. The loss of trademarks and geographical indications is common. Therefore, enterprises should apply for trademark protection as soon as possible.”
Similarly, Dang Van Cuong. Head of Chinh Phap Law Office, said that if Vietnam wants to develop agricultural exports in major markets, a brand identity is very important. The authorities need to pay more attention to this issue and have forums to exchange and disseminate experience in trademark protection registration so that Vietnamese enterprises and farmers can understand, implement and have solutions.
Some experts see that, in order to protect the brand of Vietnamese agricultural products in the domestic as well as international markets, stronger cooperation from both state management agencies and the business association community is needed. On the State side, it is necessary to focus on solutions such as planning and setting up specialized production areas; strengthen the relationship between farmers directly producing and scientists to improve labor productivity, increase output and produce products of high quality and uniformity; strengthen trade promotion measures for agricultural products.
For enterprises, it is necessary to raise awareness about building, developing and protecting brands for export agricultural products; investing in modern machinery and equipment in combination with applying scientific and technical advances to production and processing in order to improve productivity, quality and add value to agricultural products.
“In addition, invest in market research to create suitable products; develop standards for products to ensure the transparency of the production process, thereby creating the necessary “passport” for agricultural products is also an important factor in the future,” said Mr. Vu Xuan Truong.
From the perspective of state management agencies, Mr. Vu Ba Phu, Director of the Trade Promotion Department (Ministry of Industry and Trade), said that in the future, the Ministry will strengthen propaganda activities to raise awareness of a brand’s role, helping enterprises improve competitiveness and product value in the market, thereby raising awareness and the role of brand protection; supervise the infringement of trademark copyright in Vietnam in the markets, provide technical support through the provision of training courses, register for intellectual property protection in the domestic market and some markets of key exports.