Agricultural expert Hoang Trong Thuy
One of the key points is that the Ministry of Industry and Trade and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) must have a specialized agency to support businesses, and at the same time improve the capacity of associations and industries so that these units can play a role for member enterprises.
The issue of ST25 rice being registered by many US and Australian businesses for trademark protection has once again sounded the alarm on the issue of building and protecting agricultural brands. How do you see the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved in the above case?
According to the law of Vietnam, registration of rice trademark protection in the export market is the responsibility of enterprises. State management agencies play the role of supporting, consulting and leading enterprises. Obviously, in the ST25 rice case, the first and biggest responsibility belongs to the enterprise.
For markets with export potential, enterprises must protect their trademarks in that market. However, it must be added that Ho Quang Cua and Ho Quang Tri private enterprise have not been consulted and guided thoroughly, leading to the situation of foreign enterprises to register for trademark protection. It is clear that there are also responsibilities of the State, specifically the two ministries including the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the MARD.
Brand building is at three levels, there are three types of brands including: collective brand, enterprise brand and national brand. If we take those three brands and apply them to the specific issue of ST25 rice, we can see that the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the MARD have not been able to cross-link each other to build a national brand after ST25 rice became famous. To be frank, these two sets have not been intentional in building a national rice brand.
Some argue that not only the rice industry, many other agricultural products and businesses are not aware of the importance of building and protecting brands. This is an important reason why the construction and protection of agricultural product brands has not achieved the desired results. Could you please tell me your opinion?
Again, regarding Ho Quang Cua and ST25 rice, it cannot be said that Cua does not have enough money to pursue brand protection in key export markets, but mainly due to knowledge of trademarks and brands and not receiving the full advice, support and assistance of lawyers and the State.
I mainly evaluate the perspective of business knowledge, market development strategies of enterprises with key products. My point of view is that the law of Vietnam is still limited, besides the involvement of state management agencies in helping businesses as well as the awareness and efforts of enterprises themselves in building and protecting brands are not commensurate.
This is also a remarkable factor of many agricultural export industries, many enterprises exporting agricultural products of Vietnam, not just rice. For example, with pepper, in the first quarter of 2021, China purchased more than 11,800 tons at a price of US$1,400/ton. After processing and branding, they sell for US$4,800/ton. So far, associations and industries have only focused on the final value of doing business to make profits, but not paid much attention to production. Obviously, up to now, associations and industries must focus more on helping members and developing brands for key export products.
|For a long time, up to 80% of Vietnamese agricultural products are exported under the name of foreign enterprises. Photo: Nguyen Thanh|
MARD is expected to use funds from the 2021-2025 Seed Development Program to buy back the ownership of rice varieties ST24, ST25. When the variety is managed by the State, many agencies and organizations will be exploited and used and ensure more stability in quality and area. This is considered to create a better momentum for the protection of the ST25 rice brand in the export market. In your opinion, should this method be replicated with many other agricultural products in the future?
Currently, Vietnam has many key agricultural products for export. In order to increase brand building and protection in foreign countries, it is necessary to develop production and optimize products. For ST25 rice, I support this, which is similar to how Thailand acts with Hom Mali rice.
I think this method should be developed in conditional industries. Currently, for ministries and sectors, select some products from the 10 key export agricultural products of Vietnam that are achieving export turnover of over US$1 billion to try, succeed, and then gradually multiply.
Can you tell us more about solutions and long-term strategies to improve the efficiency of building and protecting brands for export agricultural products in the future?
First of all, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and organizations such as the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) must update international practices, and train the business team so that businesses can understand the laws of each country and international practices. On that basis, new businesses can plan a strategy, if they maintain the step-by-step approach.
The second is to return to the problem of agricultural production. If you only think about volume without optimizing products, you cannot have a brand-building mindset, so there must be strategies to switch from raw materials to production development, and from production development to product optimization. The role of the State is to develop production, select a key product line and select a key brand in that key product line to do step by step, for example, pangasius, pepper, wood and wood products.
The third is to realize that in the integration period, the trade war is a war for the brand name, not a matter of stable volume and quality. Victory in export market expansion is by brand, so in the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the MARD must have a specialized agency to help associations, industries and businesses do this.
The final solution is to improve the capacity of associations and industries. Associations and industries must be “midwives” for members to seek advice and have space to implement ideas. Enterprises want to build and protect their brands, but they have to ask 5-7 sets, they can’t lose.
The association acts as a one-door mechanism, where businesses can find answers to questions about brand building and protection such as quality, analysis, market assessment, etc.
Combining the above factors is an important solution to change and move the issue of building and protecting the brand of Vietnamese agricultural products.