Although Vietnam is one of the biggest rice exporters today, there is an urgent need to restructure the sector. To guide the transition from a quantity focused producer to a credible supplier of high quality rice, this study explores the diversity in value chains and the sector’s opportunities for sustainable value chain upgrading. During a participatory multi-stakeholder workshop participants from the public as well as the private sector were guided through several collective tasks to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of the Vietnamese rice sector, and the opportunities and threats (SWOT) the sector faces to become more sustainable. Subsequently, a Strategic Orientation Round (SOR) was used to evaluate the relative importance of the SWOT components. Results show that the stakeholders perceive the sector’s capability to grasp opportunities (including growing export and domestic markets) to be higher than its resilience to potential threats (including more stringent food safety regulations and global warming). Three different strategies are discussed for making rice value chains more sustainable: embodying, disembodying and internalizing sustainability.