Common voice lacking to develop clean vegetable program

VietNamNet Bridge – The demand for clean vegetables has been increasing rapidly amid the rapid-fire information about chemically infected vegetables. However, the supply still cannot satisfy the demand.

Small output, big demand

Right in 2000, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development issued a legal document guiding the procedures for clean vegetable production. However, no considerable progress in the field has been made over the last 10 years.

By 2007, there were 13, 216 hectares of land reserved for growing clean vegetables in the Red River Delta, or 13 percent of the total area. However, only 6755 hectares of land were recognized as having necessary conditions for clean vegetable production.

In 2008, the ministry released VietGap standards, i.e. the Vietnamese standards for clean farming process. However, after three years of implementation, the total area obtaining VietGap standard remains modest, about 820 hectares, too small if compared with the huge demand of people.

Nguyen Manh Hung, Deputy Chair of Vinastas, the consumers’ right protection association, said at a workshop held some days ago in Hanoi that 90 percent of polled consumers said vegetables are the most important kind of food in their family meals, and that they would accept to pay 20-30 percent, or even 50 percent higher for clean vegetables.

How to increase the confidence of consumers?

However, the problem is that consumers would only spend money on real clean vegetables. Meanwhile, farmers cannot prove that their vegetables are “clean and safe.”

This explains why people cannot find safe vegetables, while farmers cannot sell clean vegetables.

In Hanoi, 90 percent of consumers say they cannot differentiate clean vegetables from unclean vegetables with their naked eyes. 39 percent of consumers still buy vegetables from the markets near their home, while only 14 percent buy vegetables from supermarkets or the shops which commit to sell clean vegetables.

Meanwhile, other consumers refuse to buy vegetables from the shops, because they fear that the shop “cry wine and sell vinegar.”

The Huong Canh Company recently decided to spend 7 billion dong to organize clean vegetable production in accordance with VietGap standard in Gia Lam district.

However, its clean vegetables find it difficult to compete with cheaper products, because housewives do not have confidence in the quality of its products. Since the outlet is unstable, farmers would rather to grow vegetables in normal way than making great efforts to follow VietGap standards.

Tran Van May, Chair of the Dam Hamlet Cooperative, a well-known clean vegetable producer, said that in the past, the cooperative wholesaled vegetables to 100 schools in Hanoi, while the number has dropped to 50. As such, the sales of the cooperative have been cut by 50 percent, thus forcing the cooperative to sell clean vegetables on the market.

Deputy Director of Big C supermarket chain Pham Thanh Nga said that clean vegetables still have been selling slowly because of the high prices and the lack of information about the products.

An executive of Citimart has affirmed that 100 percent of the vegetables available at the supermarket chain is safe vegetables sourced from the Da Lat and Hoc Mon vegetable growing areas. However, he admitted that it is very difficult to sell clean vegetables because of the lack of information.

Hung stressed that the lack of consumers’ confidence should be seen as the key point that makes producers and consumers unconnected.

Dai Doan Ket