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Vietnam getting a boost from its coffee

A vendor sits inside her shop selling coffee and tea in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

People in Vietnam have seen a lot of bad economic news over the past few years. But there's one industry that's perking them up -- coffee.

I visited what's called the coffee capital of Vietnam, in the central highlands. All around me people are enjoying an early morning ritual: having a gorgeous cup of coffee in a café.

"You know, coffee is a good start in the morning," says one customer. "Every morning we start with a coffee, and every day we come here to have some coffee in the morning before start our work."

More and more of us could soon be getting our fix from Vietnam. It is poised to overtake Brazil as the world's largest exporter of coffee.

Checking on the coffee plants in the tropical heat -- it's hard work for farmers. Life has improved, with Vietnamese coffee becoming more popular globally, but now the world economy is slowing, and coffee prices have been falling, which worries the farmers.  They complain about the volatility of the market.   

For Vietnam's king of coffee, life isn't exactly hard. Like many entrepreneurs, Dang Le Nguyen Vu is confident. The CEO of Trung Nguyên coffee says that the industry will pull through, and even has his sights set on overtaking Starbucks.

"We must give up the old mind-set of supplying just raw materials -- the beans," he says. "We must move up the value chain. The money to be made in the coffee industry is at the higher end -- processing, retailing."

And factories like this one show that Vietnam is already moving along those lines. It's because Vietnam is industrialized, after decades of central planning under communism. So it has an advantage when it wants to promote a sector like coffee.

Besides, as millions of people join the middle class from developing countries, the United Nations forecasts that prices will rise for food products like coffee. For Vietnam's future, this may well be the right investment.

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