“In our assessment we can maintain and will strive to reach the level of last year,” Minister Cao Duc Phat told reporters.
The increased figure came despite a government forecast earlier this month that rice exports could fall 44.4 percent in the three months ending March from a year earlier to 1 million tons, as foreign buyers wait for prices to bottom.
Vietnam, the world’s second-largest rice exporter after Thailand, set a 2012 target of 6.5 million tons, but Phat said the actual export volume could be higher due to a good outlook for domestic production and demand in importing nations.
“As of now the winter-spring rice crop is going very well, the output could rise from 2011,” Phat said on the sidelines of a regional conference held jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization.
The initial 6.5-million-ton target laid out by Vietnam, had been made to help farmers and exporters prepare crop plantings and other logistics issues, Phat said. Earlier this month, the Agriculture Ministry forecast that Vietnam’s annual rice shipment this year would fall to 6.6 million tons.
Phat noted that rice exports in the first two months have slowed due to thin demand. Rice export volume in the January-February period dropped 46 percent from a year earlier to 556,000 tons, the government has said.
“But we would like to reaffirm that we do not have policies to limit rice exports this year,” he said.
Traders said foreign buyers, including major traditional importers of Vietnamese rice such as the Philippines and Indonesia, were still waiting for the Mekong Delta harvest to peak and prices to fall before making their purchases.
Indonesia, which said it would import 2 million tons this year, has yet to make any move while demand from Africa, another major buyer of Vietnamese grain, has fallen by two thirds so far this year from a year earlier.
The Philippines on Wednesday cut rice imports by the private sector 380,000 tons this year but may consider more government imports to cover its planned 500,000 tons purchase, farm officials said.