VietNamNet Bridge – Pesticides on vegetables sold at markets remained disturbingly high – about 11.5 per cent above permitted levels.
Also the wide-spread poisoning from kitchens in industrial areas still occurs due to the high amounts of residual chemicals found in fresh produce.
Tran Cong Thang, from the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture (IPSARD) said despite the results of such tests, sales of “safe vegetables” still remained modest.
The key reason, Thang said, was that consumers did not have complete trust in the quality of clean vegetables.
A recent survey from IPSARD among consumers in the two cities of Ha Noi and HCM City showed that more than 50 per cent of the respondents said they did not fully trust in the reputation of safe vegetables and about 43 per cent said they did not know where to buy them.
Most chose to buy organic vegetables at big supermarkets or “green food” shops, but still have some doubts about the quality of the products.
In Ha Noi, where the demand for vegetables is approximately 2,600 tonnes per day, equivalent to 950,000 tonnes per year, chemical- free vegetables only accounted for 15 per cent of the total vegetable sold at the market.
Head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Domestic Market Department Le Thi Hong said the management of chemical-free vegetables, especially in markets, remained loose, which contributed to the low confidence and therefore sale of the produce.
The latest IPSARD survey at wholesale markets in Ha Noi revealed that 73 per cent of traders couldn’t tell the difference between safe vegetable and other products without quick-test tools.
About 30 per cent of which said they didn’t want to sell safe vegetable due to low profit margins, unstable supply without any favorable benefits.
Currently, there are no separate areas for spray-free vegetables at wholesale vegetable markets in the city.
“There is no room for safe vegetable there. Most of the management boards of the markets have no idea how to market safe products,” she said.
“Many shops are selling organic and non-organic vegetables at the same time. This has caused further doubt for consumers,” she added.
Moreover, the inadequacies of the production and supply chain, as well as problems with technical standards have been blamed on the lack of popularity for this kind of produce.
Dr Dao The Anh, director of the Centre for Agrarian Systems Research and Development, said that the process of getting safe food certificates such as VietGap and GlobalGap cost between US$1,000-2,000 per hectare and it was only valid for two years.
However, most of farmers owned small area of cultivated land – about 720 square meters per household on average.
Besides, many organic vegetable shops were hard to access. While inconsistent arrangements between farmers and enterprises caused a shortage of products, affecting the operation of these shops.
As a result, 12 out of 50 organic vegetable shops in the city were closed down after two years of operation.
According to experts, the authorities must also cut red-tape and improve legal frameworks to improve the organic production chain, especially in relation to markets.
They believe the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development should consolidate regulations on conditions to give assurance for organic food at wholesale markets.
Tran Xuan Dinh, vice head of the Cultivation Department, said that complicated requirements on organic products, confused farmers and overlapping legal documents among relevant authorities have made the situation untenable.
Dinh cited that there were four laws and 17 circulars on organic food issued and managed by three separate ministries, including the Ministries of Health, Agriculture and Rural Development and Industry and Trade.
They would also like the State to implement policies, such as preferential loans or taxes to attract private enterprises to invest in facilities for organic vegetables.
The policies need to encompass all aspects of the production line – from growing, processing, preserving and consuming – to meet a target of 60 per cent demand by 2015 and 100 per cent by 2020.
Viet Nam has recently developed some organic vegetable management projects with assistance from Denmark, Canada and Japan. The authorities have called for more international support in building a sustainable safe agricultural production chain.
Despite having a large diversity of vegetables, the area set aside for organic vegetable production in Viet Nam is still limited. As of early 2013, there were only 71,728 hectares of land zoned off for safe vegetable production.
Of which, only 6,800ha has been certified as meeting safe production standards, including various kinds of GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) standards.
However, the country is now devoting over 823,000 hectares of land to grow chemical-free vegetables, which will create an output of 14 million tonnes of produce per year, 85 percent of which are to be for domestic consumption.