Market Structure of Rice Export in Vietnam from 2010 to 2020

Market Structure of Rice Export in Vietnam from 2010 to 2020

Published: 2022.01.27
Accepted: 2022.01.25
Institute of Vietnam Economics
Institute of Vietnam Economics
Vice President
Vietnam Academy of Agriculture Sciences (VAAS).


The article presents the current situation of the export rice industry as well as the market structural changes of Vietnam's rice exports between 2010 and 2020. By analyzing the process of changing the structure of rice exports by value and market, it is obvious that Vietnamese rice has progressed quite quickly in structural changes of varieties towards quality rice and fragrant rice, diversifying export markets. However, Vietnamese rice does not have a brand name has a small market share in the world's value markets (the United States, Germany, Japan, etc.), and remains in the middle and easy segments whose market shares tend to decrease in the main markets (China). Thereby, the article offers some policy implications for Vietnam's rice export industry in the coming time.

Keywords: rice, export, market structure, Vietnam.


From a country lacking in food, currently, rice production in Vietnam has met the needs of domestic consumption and has become an exporter of rice from 1989 onwards. Between 2010 and 2020, Vietnam's rice exports reached an average of over 6.4 million tons, equivalent to about 20% of production output. Currently, Vietnam belongs to the group of three largest rice exporters in the world.

Export volume and value

For three consecutive years 2010-2012, Vietnam's rice exports continuously broke out to break their own records (Table 1). In 2010, the export volume of rice reached 6.9 million tons, accounting for 22% of the world's total rice exports. In 2011, rice exports reached 7.1 million tons. By 2012, Vietnam surpassed Thailand (6.73 million tons) in rice export volume and ranked second in the world, after India (10.57 million tons), reaching 8 million tons, worth US$3.7 billion. However, in terms of export turnover, among the three largest rice exporting countries in the world today, Vietnam ranks last. Rice export turnover of India, Thailand and Vietnam this year respectively is US$6.1 billion, US$4.6 billion and US$3.7 billion.

In 2012, the price of rice in the world market declined sharply, causing the export price of Vietnam's rice to decrease to US$458/ton compared with US$514/ton in 2011. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, in 2014, the export price of Vietnam’s rice tends to increase, reaching US$464/ton, because Vietnam has exported a large amount of rice to the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, and at the same time, still maintains a high growth rate level of exports to China even during a tense period in the East Sea.

In 2016, the world and regional rice markets continued to compete fiercely, with many unfavorable developments for Vietnam's rice exports, reaching only nearly 4.8 million tons, worth US$2.2 billion, a decrease of nearly 27.3% in quantity and 21.4% in value compared to 2015. However, with many innovations in management, rice exports in 2017 reached 5.8 million tons, up 20.8 % compared to 2016, and the value reached about US$2.6 billion, up 18.2%.

In 2018, the volume of rice exports reached 6.1 million tons with a turnover of US$3.1 billion, up 5.2% in volume and 19.2% in value compared to 2017. The average rice export price reached about approximately US$501/ton; an increase of US$48/ton compared to the average price in 2017. The export structure gradually increased with high quality and high-grade rice, so the average export price increased. Rice exports with increasingly diverse products such as long grain rice, short grain rice, fragrant rice, Japonica rice, sticky rice, etc. In 2018, Vietnam continued to be the world's third largest exporter after India and Thailand.

In 2019, rice exports reached nearly 6.4 million tons, worth US$2.8 billion, up 4.9% in volume but down 9.7% in value compared to 2018. In the context of a difficult market, Vietnam's rice exports still maintained an increase in volume, however, the average export price was at US$441/ton, down 12%, equivalent to a decrease of US$60/ton.

Vietnam's rice exports in 2020 even in the context of COVID-19 still reached 6.2 million tons, worth US$3.1 billion. Although the amount of rice exported decreased by about 3.1% compared to 2019, mainly because of the goal of ensuring national food security, the export value increased by 10.7%. The average export price for the whole year reached US$499/ton, up 13.1% compared to 2019. This is the high average price in recent years, bringing great benefits to rice farmers. However, the value of Vietnam's rice exports is on a decreasing trend over the years. On average, in the last five years from 2016 to 2020, rice exports are at 5.9 million tons/year with a value of about US$2.8 billion. While the average of 5 years in the period before 2010-2015, the volume of rice exported reached nearly 6.9 million tons/year with a value of about US$3.2 billion/year. Thus, Vietnam's rice industry has begun to tend to approach the limit in terms of production capacity, as shown by the decreasing growth rate (both in volume and turnover), while the agricultural land area is decreasing gradually, further narrowed by the rapidly increasing urbanization process and the negative impacts of climate change.

Export market share

Vietnam's rice market share in the world market in recent years has been relatively stable at 12 - 15% in terms of value (Table 2). Export volume compared to the world, ranked third in the world in terms of rice export volume in the period 2015 - 2019.

The years 2015, 2017, and 2018, show the solid position of Thai rice export in the world market with the market share is twice as high as that of Vietnam.  But after 2018, the gap of market share between Vietnam and Thailand is shrinking. Besides Thailand, India is gradually affirming to the world about its rice export capacity. India's rice export volume has grown strongly in recent years, twice as much as Vietnam and is the largest rice exporter in the world.

The United States has also ranked in the list of 10 major rice exporting countries in recent years. The market share of US rice exports fluctuated relatively stable over time with a range of 6 - 8%.

China's rice export market share has declined rapidly (from 10.91% in 1999 to 0.8% in 2013) because of changes in the country's economic development strategy. China has become a major rice importer in the world with the volume of imported rice constantly increasing over the years. Currently, China's rice export market share increases from 1% in 2015 to 5% in 2020.

Currently, Vietnam's rice export market is relatively diversified. Vietnamese rice is present in all five continents, in which the main focus is Asia (in 2020, even during the COVID-19 impacting period, Vietnam’s rice accounted for 66.16% of total exports volume) and gradually penetrated into difficult markets such as Australia, Germany, Japan, the United States, etc. (MOIT, 2021).  Although the export scale in these markets is still modest, combined with the fierce competition of strong competitors such as Thailand, these new markets are considered a reasonable direction for Vietnam's rice industry.


The process of changing the structure of rice export by value

Regarding the export price of rice

For a country, high or low export prices not only affects export turnover but also shows the development level of the domestic production industry. In 2011, the average export price of Vietnam's rice was highest at US$514/ton, while the average price of Thai rice was US$608/ton. 2012 is considered to be the year when the world market's rice supply is quite abundant, the competition between suppliers is very fierce, the average export price of Thai rice continues to increase (reaching US$688/ton), while the average export price of Vietnam's rice dropped to US$458/ton. In 2013, the average export price of rice from Thailand and Vietnam both decreased, however, the rate of decrease of Vietnamese rice price (US$444/ton) was lower than that of Thailand (US$668/ton). Faced with this reality, Vietnam's rice industry needs a structural change in the industry itself, focusing on investing in and applying modern science and technology to improve export quality and competitive rice varieties.

Vietnam's average rice export price in 2018 reached the highest level from 2013 - 2018, reaching US$501/ton, high rice price contributed to boosting rice exports in 2018 in both volume and export value, an increase of 5.1% and 19.2% respectively compared to 2017, reaching 6.1 million tons and US$3.1 billion (Table 1). 2016 was the year with the lowest export volume and turnover with 4.8 million tons and US$2.2 billion, much lower than the average of the whole period, down nearly 27.2% in volume and decreased by 21.4% in value compared to 2015. It can be said that 2016 was an unsuccessful year in Vietnam's rice exports, exports decreased in most markets and all major markets such as: China, Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. One of the reasons for this situation is the delay in Vietnam's rice export policy, while competitors have changed rapidly. Specifically, Thailand has announced to discharge its rice reserves for export, India has won many rice export contracts with the Governments of major countries such as China, the Philippines, and many Middle East and African countries. The advantage of cheap rice prices, good quality of India becomes a great pressure for major rice exporting countries such as Vietnam and Thailand. 2016 is a year which marked a milestone in terms of competition for export rice in the international market, which is comprehensively expressed from volume, quality to brand in the market. In addition to major rice exporting countries such as Vietnam, Thailand, and India, many countries have emerged that have joined the group of rice exporting countries such as Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, etc. These are new competitors with high quality and branded rice products start to export to high quality markets. However, with many innovations in production and value chain management (such as the small farm-large field, linkage cooperative-export enterprise), Vietnam's rice exports in 2017 reached 5.8 million tons, an increase of 20.8% compared to 2016, worth about US$2.6 billion, an increase of 18%. The average FOB export price stood at US$453/ton, up 0.9%, equivalent to an increase of US$4/ton compared to the 2016 export price.

Compared with Thailand, the price of Vietnamese rice is always lower than that of Thailand in the same category (Table 3). Statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) show that the price of Vietnamese rice exports in the period from January 2016 to September 2019 is always lower than the price of Thai rice. However, since the beginning of October 2020, the price of Vietnamese rice has been slightly higher than the price of Thai rice. The reason for this situation is that Vietnam's rice supply is limited and transportation costs increase, while Thailand's rice supply increases thanks to favorable weather conditions. The higher price of rice compared to other leading rice exporting countries in the world is a disadvantage for Vietnam.

Regarding the quality of exported rice

From 2010 to 2017 there was a change in the structure of rice exports in the direction of positively (Figure 1), increasing the proportion of sticky rice, fragrant rice and reducing the proportion of low- and medium-grade rice. The share of low-quality white rice exports decreased from 33.05% in 2010 to 12.45% in 2015 and 3.90% in 2017; Average quality white rice also decreased from 21.13% in 2010 to 18.36% and 8.2% in 2015 and 2017 respectively. The export proportion of fragrant rice and sticky rice had a remarkable growth, increasing from 2.01% in 2010 to 7.09% in 2015 and 23.5% in 2017 for sticky rice; increased from 3.67% in 2010 to 22.65% in 2015 and 29.2% in 2017 for fragrant rice. Thus, the structure of rice exports has tended to shift towards increasing the proportion of fragrant rice and high-grade rice in the 2010-2015 period. And in this market segment, Vietnam has to face increasing competition from neighboring Cambodia.

From 2018, sticky rice exports faced difficulties due to changes in import tax rates of the Chinese market, the structure of sticky rice exports decreased from 22% in 2017 to 5% in 2019. In 2019, among exported rice, White rice accounts for the majority, with 57% of Vietnam's rice export volume, the white rice market of Vietnam is Asian countries. Next is fragrant rice, contributing 32% to the structure of rice exports, with the main market being African countries. Even the demand of fragrant rice in the US and EU is increasing, but Vietnam’s fragrant rice is not yet attended the food safety standard of these markets, dominating by Thailand and India fragrant rice.

In 2020, the export value of white rice accounted for 45.1% of the total turnover, reaching 2.76 million tons; jasmine and fragrant rice accounted for 26.8%, reaching 1.64 million tons; broken rice accounted for 13.65%, reaching 834.4 thousand tons; sticky rice accounted for 8.9%, reaching 547.9 thousand tons; japonica rice and Japanese rice varieties accounted for 4.2%.

As shown in Figure 2, the price of Thailand's export rice is always higher than that of Vietnam's rice in the same category as glutinous rice, in particular, the price of Thailand's Hom Mali fragrant rice is much higher than the price of Jasmine or Dai fragrant rice of Vietnam at the same time. In June 2019, the price of Thai Hom Mali rice was US$1,088/ton, Thai sticky rice was US$930/ton, while Vietnam's sticky rice price was US$485/ton, Dai Thom 8 rice was US$436/ton, and Jasmine rice is US$475 /ton.

The reason why Thailand always sells at a higher price than Vietnamese rice is thanks to the brand name. Thai Hom Mali rice is a branded rice that has won the top prize 6 times since the World's Best Rice contest organized by The Rice Trader. Vietnam has many types of rice with the same quality as other countries, but information about these types of rice is still unknown to the world market because they do not have the name "Made in Vietnam ''.

Vietnamese rice has an advantage in the white and long grain rice market segment thanks to the "cheap advantage," however, this advantage is also facing stiff competition from new rice exporting countries such as Cambodia and Myanmar. The ability to access and compete in markets requiring high quality, especially fragrant rice in Japan, EU, US, Australia, etc. is still very limited. In general, Vietnam's fragrant rice exports are mostly in the middle price segment, so the strongest fragrant rice consumption markets are still African and Asian countries. The goal of improving quality is still the top goal in order to be able to penetrate into difficult markets, bringing higher added value to rice.

The process of changing the structure of rice exports according to the market

Vietnamese rice has been present in more than 150 countries and territories around the world. Currently, Vietnam's main rice export markets are countries in Asia and Africa, including Philippines, Malaysia, China, Ivory Coast, Ghana, etc. Previously, rice exported to China accounted for 20-30% of the country's total rice exports, with more than 90% being glutinous rice. Vietnam is the largest rice exporting country to China with a turnover of US$616 - 1,022 million, accounting for 46.2 - 60.6% of the total rice import turnover of this market in the period 2012 - 2017. In July 2018, China applied many impedances to rice products, introduced stricter requirements on food hygiene and safety, increased the import tax on sticky rice from 5% to 50%, making the costs of rice exports to China increased. In 2020, Vietnam's rice export turnover to China decreased to only US$452 million, with the market share falling to 30.97%. In 2019 and 2020, the Philippine market and countries in Africa will become key markets for Vietnam's rice exports.

Looking at Table 4, Vietnam’s rice market through the years can be seen. Vietnam's main rice exports are still China and the Philippines. Vietnam also exports to a number of markets such as the United States, Japan, Australia, etc., but the quantity is not significant. In 2020, Vietnam's rice exports to the United States reached 20,496 tons, down 32.1% compared to 2016 (30,200 tons). In contrast to the United States, the amount of rice exported to Australia and Germany in 2020 increased 3.5 times and 4.6 times compared to 2016, respectively, an increase from 9,042 tons to 32,403 tons and 1,812 tons to 8,621 tons.

Currently, the proportion of rice exported to the US and EU accounts for a low proportion, partly due to the habit of using more wheat than rice, and partly because Vietnamese rice has not met the strict standards of these markets. In 2020, the rates of rice exports to the United States and European countries such as Poland, the Netherlands and France account for 0.45%, 0.17%, 0.14%, and 0.07% of the total rice export value of the country, respectively.

To be able to enter the EU, US or Japanese markets, Vietnamese rice grains must meet many strict quality standards. Accordingly, rice must ensure traceability with a clear planting area address, must meet GlobalGAP standards or equivalent, and no residues of pesticides, etc. The high-quality requirement of these high-end markets make the proportion of Vietnam's rice exports to these markets relatively small. Vietnamese farmers often abuse pesticides and chemical fertilizers in farming, so there have been a lot of export rice shipments with pesticide residues returned from the US, which has a negative impact on prices sales and reputation in Vietnam's export activities.

Contrary to the structure of Vietnam's rice export market, Thai rice is mainly exported to the US, Germany, Japan, etc. with a much higher volume than Vietnam. In 2018, Thailand's rice exports to Germany reached the highest level of nearly 1,698 thousand tons, higher than the amount of rice exported to the Philippines (1,031 thousand tons), accounting for 14.1% of Thailand's total rice exports. The US market is also an important rice export market of Thailand, reaching 672,183 tons, accounting for 11.7% of Thailand's total rice exports in 2020.

Thus, currently, Vietnam's main rice export market is still China and the Philippines. Previously, the volume of Vietnam's rice exports to China reached 2,162 thousand tons in 2015, however, in recent years, it has gradually decreased to only 762 thousand tons in 2020. This is an opportunity for Vietnam's rice industry to reduce dependence on the Chinese market, towards diversifying markets and exporting better varieties of rice.


Vietnam has been exporting rice for more than 30 years and has increasingly affirmed its position in the world rice export market by improving quality, diversifying types and models as well as ensuring health standards and stable supply. In the period of 2010 - 2020, Vietnam's rice exports have progressed quite quickly in changing the structure of varieties towards quality rice and fragrant rice. In addition, the policy of diversifying the export rice market has also helped Vietnam's rice products access and promote advantages in difficult markets. However, Vietnamese rice still does not have a brand name, occupying a negligible market share in the world's largest value markets (the United States, Germany, Japan, etc.), still in the middle and easy segments and is losing market share in key markets such as China. Thai rice dominates in higher-end markets such as the EU, the US, Japan, etc. Therefore, the challenge of Vietnamese rice is how to move from the low-end rice segment to building a high-end rice brand. Meanwhile, competition in the premium rice segment is also very tough.

Therefore, in order for Vietnam's rice export industry to develop sustainably, stably and modernly, and penetrate high-value rice markets, it is necessary to: 

  1. Continue to maintain the current rice business policy to ensure stability and create a competitive environment.
  2. Strengthen policy on new rice varieties: (1) Protect plant breeders’ right; (2) Invest in research and breeding to create and improve quality varieties; (3) Organize the production of certified rice seeds of competitive advantage varieties, providing farmers with adequate supplies in the market.
  3. Promote the construction and promotion of Vietnam's rice brand by trade promotion programs, promote the promotion of brands of varieties with competitive advantages and prioritized markets in each period.


Ministry of Industry and Trade (2021), Vietnam Import and Export Report 2020, Industry and Trade Publishing House.

General Statistics Office, Statistical Yearbook for the years 2010 - 2020, Statistical Publishing House, Hanoi.

General Department of Customs, Customs Statistical Yearbook for the years 2010 - 2020, Finance Publishing House, Hanoi.

USDA, Global Market Analysis, January 2021.