HANOI, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) — Vietnam's fruit and vegetable export value is expected to reach 2.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2016,  surpassing rice export revenue for the first time, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) announced on Thursday.

According to the ministry, the vegetable and fruit industry grew from earning 235 million U.S. dollars in 2005 to a record high of some 1.8 billion U.S. dollars in 2015.

In 2005, Vietnamese fruit and vegetables were shipped to 36 markets while the figure rose to 60 markets in 2015.

Le Quoc Doanh, Deputy Minister of MARD was quoted by the state- run news agency VNA as saying that Vietnam has emphasized rice exports for many years.

However, rice exports have been in downward trend. In January-August period, exports of Vietnamese rice experienced a decrease of 16.6 percent in volume and 13.1 percent in value year- on-year, said MARD.

At the same time, the world market has growing demand in fruit,  so the country should promote fruit exports in the future, said Doanh.

Vietnam's Mekong Delta region alone has total annual output of 3.18 million tons of fruits for local consumption and exports, said MARD, adding that key fruit products include dragon fruit, mango, rambutan, durian, star apple, pomelo, longan, orange and tangerine.