“It’s a surprise that people like Vietnamese goodsthese days,” said Thuyen. “They especially like Vietnamese food products… they’ve gotten to know and trust Vietnamese brands.”
Lay Vannak, deputy major of Takeo Province, which borders Vietnam’s An Giang in the Mekong Delta, said products had expanded their shares in Cambodia and “some have defeated those from Thailand and China.”
He said Vietnamese have improved their competitiveness in terms of both quality and packaging.
An Giang Province has a long border with Cambodia and accounted for 70 percent of bilateral trade between the two countries. Vietnam exported US$1.7 billion to Cambodia last year, an annual growth rate of 40-45 percent.
In August, the province officially opened the Tinh Bien Economic Border Gate Zone, where Cambodians, Vietnamese and international tourists can access duty free goods at the border.
Nguyen Minh Tri, head of the province’s Economic Border Gate Authorities, said the zone and its ten supermarkets were a strategic foundation upon which Vietnamese goods could penetrate theCambodian market.
He also said the zone acted as a depot from which exports were launched to other markets around the globe.
Ho Chi Minh City’s Industry and Trade Service said it was difficult for Vietnamese businesses to store their products in Cambodia and it would be hard for them to boost their exports to the market where local production was underdeveloped.
Vu Kim Hanh, chairwoman of the Vietnamese High Quality Goods Club, said its members planned to build a warehouse at Tinh Bien as part of their export strategy to Cambodia.
Room for improvement
Local businesses were offering strong products at competitive prices in Cambodia, but their distribution and promotion networks remain weak, according to a survey conducted in September by the Business Support Assistance (BSA) in association with Vietnamese research firm Truong Doan.
The survey of consumers and retailers in Phnom Penh and Battambong cities showed that high-qualityVietnamese goods were recognized in Cambodia but that Vietnamese products in general were attached to less competitive labeling and promotions than those from Thailand, said Truong Cung Nghia, director of Truong Doan.
Nghia said Vietnamese businesses were strong in stationaries, bicycles and two and four-wheel accessories, footwear and garments, building materials, fertilizers, seeds, home appliances and plastic products.
Consumer and retailer satisfaction with high-quality Vietnamese goods was higher than with those from Thailand and China, said the survey, which added that retailers profited more from tradingVietnamese goods.
But still, Vietnamese businesses lacked the intense promotional campaigns of their Thai counterparts, which offered free products, cost cutting and television commercials.
“We need the support of Vietnamese producers in terms of a distribution strategy,” said Thuyen from Vinamart.
Thuyen said her shopping mall dealt in Vietnamese products and she was finding it difficult to trainCambodian staff as well, due to the language barrier.
Local producers should understand the difficulties and give a hand to traders like her in the newmarket, she said
Vietnamese product prices were also less competitive than Thai rivals, which enjoyed lower import taxes in Cambodia and had the strategic support of the Thai government, said the BSA.
The firm said the Vietnamese government should increase dialogues on the issue with its Cambodiancounterparts to help Vietnamese businesses like the Thais had done.