Only about 0.1 percent of the total vegetable growing area in Vietnam is subject to quality control but consumers prefer to buy safe products. Why has the scale of production failed to expand in response to the demanding market?
This issue was the main topic of discussion at a recent seminar on controlling the safety of vegetable products, held by the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD) and the Center for Agrarian Systems Research and Development (CASRAD).
IPSARD expert Dr Tran Cong Thang said the current volume of “safe” or “organic” vegetable products only meets 14 percent of consumer demand in Hanoi. Over 92 percent of people surveyed said the quality of “safe” vegetables on sale is much better than that other kinds of ordinary vegetables, but most consumers cannot tell the difference.
Nearly 55 percent of consumers said they only check food quality control labels; 29.4 percent base their choice on practical experience, 5.9 percent on the shop’s reputation and 9.8 percent on quality control devices.
The Fruit and Vegetables Research Institute said that only 15-20 percent of safe vegetables are sold through supermarkets, markets and shops at prices equivalent to those for ordinary vegetables.
Despite working with farmers to ensure supply and demand, small businesses are still unable to expand the distribution network.
According to a recent 2011 survey of 50 fruit and vegetables businesses in inner-city districts, good planning is considered to be the key to success. Currently, around 48.98 percent of businesses are involved in developing organic vegetables, while 28 percent focus on building more shops, and 2 percent on expanding the distribution network.
Approximately 80 percent of safe vegetables retailers plan to invest more in promoting their trademarks.
The Hanoi Plant Protection Department said the difficulty in telling the difference between organic and non-organic vegetables and the lack of transparency in the Hanoi vegetable markets, have prevented many businesses from buying and selling safe vegetables.
Last year, 25 out of 600 vegetable samples (4.1 percent) were found to contain pesticide residue beyond a recommended limit.
IPSARD experts emphasized the need to ensure transparency in the safe vegetables markets so that businesses can develop production on an equal footing through e-commerce and narrow the widening gap between traditional and modern trading methods.
Browsing organic vegetables and safe food websites, consumers will be better aware of the good effects of safe vegetables on human health.
The General Secretary of the Vietnam Standard and Consumer Association (VINASTAS), Nguyen Manh Hung, said that his association has made public an official map of organic production areas and safe vegetables retail shops in Hanoi and the surrounding areas.
Connected to Google Map, the map provides the names, addresses and telephone numbers of safe vegetables retail shops, organic vegetables producers and growing areas, as well as information about the production and quality control processes.
VINASTAS will monitor the production and processing of safe vegetables and if any business fails to meet the specific safe and organic criteria, it will be removed from the map, said Mr Hung.
At the seminar, Dr Dao The Anh, an expert from CASRAD, proposed developing a functional Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) to improve public trust in the quality of safe vegetables.