Thursday, 16 July 2015

Safe vegetables for the benefit of all stakeholders along the supply chain

By Nguyen Thi Sau, Fruit and Vegetable Research Institute, Vietnam

During a recent visit to Vietnam, Dr Nick Austin, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), spent some time on project-related activities in the country.

On 8 July, he visited a Fivimart supermarket on Chuong Duong Do Street with ACIAR country staff to see the sales point of certified safe vegetables from Moc Chau District, Son La Province. These vegetables have been produced under the ACIAR project ‘Improved market engagement for counter-seasonal vegetable producers in north-western Vietnam’ (AGB/2009/053). While there, ACIAR met with the distributors, collectors, farmers and market researchers who are directly involved in the Moc Chau safe vegetable supply chain.

Successful connection between safe vegetable producers in Moc Chau and Fivimart in Hanoi through the ACIAR project has led to the consumption of about 737 tons of vegetables since 2012 with an increase in volume and vegetable types from year to year.

Dr Nick Austin, ACIAR’s Chief Executive Officer (fourth from left) join farmers from Moc Chau and ACIAR Vietnam staff in the visit to a Fivimart outlet in Hanoi on 8 July 2015. Photo by Nguyen Phuc Dinh

Unfortunately due to time limitations, Dr Austin could not visit the vegetable production area in Moc Chau itself, which is about 200km away from Hanoi. Instead, he was fortunate to meet with Mrs Nguyen Thi Nong (representative of the households) and Mrs Nguyen Thi Luyen (chairperson of Luu Luyen vegetable cooperative from Moc Chau who participated in the project) at the meeting in Hanoi.

Safe vegetables produced under VietGAP processes have come from farm trials in three communes (Dong Sang, Muong Sang and Chieng Hac) of the Moc Chau District. Safe vegetables have been supplied to retail points in supermarkets and the safe vegetable shops in Hanoi. Right from the start, safe vegetables were welcomed by Fivimart supermarket chain, with 50-60% of total vegetable consumption from the project area.

In the meeting, Mrs Vu Thi Hau, Deputy General Director of Fivimart’s owner-company said that they chose to participate in the project because Moc Chau farmers are able to produce high-quality and safe vegetables, especially summer counter-seasonal vegetables for Hanoi markets. It is difficult for those farmers who are close to Hanoi to produce a similar quality of vegetable in the summer-time.

In the project collaboration process, communication between Fivimart and members of the cooperative is very important. Mrs Nguyen Thi Luyen, chairperson of the cooperative (and “female general” of north-western mountainous region), is a perfect example. Her coordination helps the farmers meet the purchase orders, both for quantity and types of vegetables. Mrs Luyen mentioned that “Moc Chau safe vegetable value chain is successful thanks to three factors: the assurance of safe products by applying VietGAP protocols; gaining prestige through trademark development; and partnership of the stakeholders in the whole supply chain, with assistance from researchers and local authorities, and endeavors of the producers, suppliers and distributors.”
Ms Nong and Ms Luyen, the farmers and collectors from Moc Chau District, Son La Province are proudly showing Dr Austin their temperate vegetable products in Fivimart in mid-summer. Photo by Nguyen Phuc Dinh

After the information sharing session, Dr Austin visited and observed Moc Chau vegetable fresh products. Mrs Luyen and Mrs Nong proudly showed their vegetable products such as green pumpkin, tomatoes, chayote and cabbage from Moc Chau in the supermarket in mid-summer. Mrs Nong revealed that her income from vegetables were around four to five times higher compared to what she earned on the same farm every year before joining the project.

The project is presently extended for a year and planned to expand the production area to the neighbouring District of Van Ho, supporting the ethnic minorities in vegetable production to improve their lives. As a result, there will be more consumers in Hanoi able to use safe vegetables from the north-western region.

Before saying goodbye, Dr Austin affirmed that AGB/2009/053 project is a typical example of an ACIAR project, which is helping farmers to improve agricultural quality, productivity and their livelihood. Engaging women and the private sector has made a significant contribution to obtain the project’s objectives. He emphasised that this approach should be multiplied at other localities and applied to other products from the ACIAR-funded projects. He thanked the sincere welcome and warm hospitality that the leaders and staff of Fivimart’s owner-company, project researchers and cooperative members from Moc Chau have extended to him and the ACIAR team.

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