|Farmers in HCM City's Hoc Mon District grow safe vegetables. A lack of stable outlets deters farmers from growing such products. — VNA/VNS Photo Trang Duong
by Xuan Huong
HCM CITY (VNS)— As people becoming increasingly concerned about food safety, authorities, professional agencies, and farmers are paying more attention to producing safe vegetables.
But, delegates told an agricultural extension forum on producing vegetables following Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGap) in HCM City last week that the lack of stable outlets and high prices deter farmers from growing them.
Le Thanh Tung of the Cultivation Department said the country had a total of around 823,700ha under vegetables, with safe techniques practised on 16,800ha.
"Only 491ha have VietGap and other GAP certificates, small compared to the total vegetable production area," he said.
But with the increasing demand for safe foods, many co-operatives and farmers are focusing on safe production methods like VietGAP in growing vegetables, according to Tung.
The small scale of production and lack of co-operation among farmers, co-operatives, and businesses, however, cause difficulties in applying GAP.
Besides, the outlets for GAP products are not stable and there is not much difference between prices of normal and GAP-certified vegetables, discouraging farmers.
Dr Vo Mai, deputy chairwoman of the Viet Nam Gardening Association, said: "Consumers find it hard to identify GAP-certified vegetables due to a lack of logo."
Prof Dr Nguyen Tho blamed authorities for their inefficiency, saying while growers of safe vegetable have difficulty in finding outlets for their produce, many consumers want safe vegetables but do not know where to find them.
Dr Duong Hoa Xo, director of the HCM City Biotechnology Centre, said GAP ensured the health of both producers and consumers, reduced environmental pollution, and resulted in production of safe and healthy foods with easily traceable origins.
It had been applied in Viet Nam for five to seven years, but the results had not met expectations.
In HCM City, only 132.7ha of vegetable farms had received VietGap certification by the end of last year with the result that VietGap vegetables met only 1 per cent of the city's vegetable needs.
Though supermarkets and distributors had tied up with co-operatives growing safe vegetables, this had somehow not been effective, he said.
Delegates suggested many measures to increase output of safe vegetables.
Tung of the Cultivation Department called on local authorities to zone safe vegetable production areas, upgrade infrastructure, and subsidise farmers' expenses for obtaining GAP certificates and marketing their produce.
Mai said: "The Government should quickly come up with a logo for VietGap so that consumers can distinguish it from normal [vegetables]."
Agricultural extension centres should organise training courses to raise awareness among farmers about GAP and instruct them in GAP production techniques, delegates said.
They called for establishing close links between enterprises and farmers, with the former ensuring there are outlets for all GAP-standard produce.
More than 500 delegates, including scientists, provincial agricultural officials, and farmers from 21 provinces and cities in the south attended the forum. — VNS