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Potato smugglers caught red-handed

Update: June, 25/2013 - 10:20
 Authorities in Da Lat City, Central Highland Lam Dong Province, have launched inspections in local markets after hundreds of substandard potatoes imported from China were found last weekend.—File Photo

LAM DONG (VNS)— Authorities in Da Lat City, Central Highland Lam Dong Province, have launched inspections in local markets after hundreds of substandard potatoes imported from China were found last weekend.

Inspectors uncovered two shops storing 30 tonnes of Chinese potatoes for sale at the Da Lat farm produce market in the city's Ward 11.

Workers at these stalls were caught literally red-handed, scraping dirt off the potatoes before coating them with Da Lat's distinctive red soil to disguise them as home-grown.

Chinese potatoes sell at VND3,400 (US$0.16) per kilo while ones grown in Da Lat cost about VND20,000 ($1).

Lao Dong (Labour) newspaper quoted a local truck driver saying that a disguised kilo of Chinese potatoes would sell at VND20,000 in wholesale and VND35,000 ($1.7) at retail markets.

Inspectors have already taken five large samples of potatoes from markets, including two samples of Chinese potatoes. All were found to be safe, said Head of Lam Dong Plant Protection Department Lai The Hung.

He reported that Chinese potatoes started being widely sold in the markets early last year as a result of higher local demand for potatoes.

"Da Lat potatoes have long been a favourite food of customers nationwide, so traders try to disguise Chinese potatoes as Da Lat-grown ones to sell them at markets across the country," he said.

"Chinese potatoes that are safe and genuine are still allowed to be sold in the markets, of course. It is up to customers to choose the best products for themselves. We just do not want them to be tricked," he added.

Local authorities have been on the look-out for substandard Chinese products since March this year, co-operating with forces at border gates to check the quality of imported goods.

"We can only test samples from between 10-30 per cent of the products entering the country via border gates, so it is impossible to confirm that all the products are safe enough," Hung argued.

"We plan to test 100 per cent of Chinese products which have a high risk of being unsafe and breaching hygiene violations," he added.

Da Lat city authorities last Saturday destroyed 26 tonnes of substandard potatoes imported from China, which contained residues from plant pesticides 16 times higher than permitted. — VNS



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