The central highland region which includes the 5 Provinces of Dak Lak, Dak Nong, Gia Lai, Kon Tum, and Lam Dong, with a population of 5.6 million, covers an area of more than 55,000 sq. Kilometres. The Central Highlands are one of the major coffee and pepper producing regions, in Vietnam, however most exports are unprocessed with a low added value. The region is also famous for the tea plantations in Lam Dong province.
The region accounts for 90% of the nation’s coffee growing area and over 90% of the country’s beans, however most of the production is Robusta with very little Arabica and although Vietnam is the world’s second largest coffee producer it is not well known internationally because Robusta is generally blended with a loss of identity.
The central highlands has really failed to attract foreign investment of any real magnitude benefiting from only US$ 3.5 billion of foreign direct investment just about 1% of the total for the country since Doi Moi in 1988 and of that US$ 2 billion has been invested into wind power projects.
At a recent investment promotion conference Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has urged the region to boost its potential by looking for investment into high-tech agriculture, forestry, renewable energy and tourism. He also said that the region should establish large scale farming areas, develop organic farming and expand the value chain of products from forests. However, he cautioned that the region should follow the Government’s directions on forest management and production as well as sustainable forest recovery.
Clearly there are opportunities in this area, which also hosts several ethnic minorities and is close to the border with Laos. However, there is a lot of illegal border trade and high levels of military and police security, which have held back foreign investment. Maybe now with the new Government and their pro-business stance is the time to take a closer look.