|Hà Nội resident Khánh Ngọc turns a two square metre balcony in her apartment into a vegetable garden for her family when the city applies social distancing. Photo courtesy of Khánh Ngọc|
By Minh Hương
HÀ NỘI — More than a month since Hà Nội implemented social distancing, Khánh Ngọc turned a small balcony in her apartment into a vegetable garden for her family.
Calling it her “cloud garden”, Ngọc said she paid about VNĐ2 million (US$93) to install the garden in her 8th-floor apartment in Thanh Xuân District.
Ngọc told Việt Nam News: “I grow some spinach, onions and some herbs like coriander. Every morning, my husband waters the plants and picks them, and in the afternoon I work on the soil. We learned how to use fertiliser and water, so vegetables grow very quickly.”
Since the end of July when a lot of the city's residents were encouraged to stay home to avoid spreading COVID-19, they took advantage of balconies, front yards and even rooftops to be able to provide vegetables for their families.
Ngọc is not the only city gardener using a small area to grow vegetables. Nguyễn Linh Đan, 22, who lives on Đội Cấn Street in Ba Đình District, also grows vegetables on a 5-metre corner of her sixth floor flat, meaning she doesn't need to buy produce from a store.
Đan said: “I had to carry 30kg of soil from the first to the sixth floor, however, it means I can have fresh vegetables of my own. The local market is recently closed due to COVID-19 cases, but I don't need to worry about food. I have my garden."
"I find growing vegetables and flowers during the pandemic very effective at reducing stress, and having something to eat. Moreover, people also have more knowledge about gardening and agriculture," she said.
As more and more households in big cities try growing vegetables on terraces and balconies, companies selling vegetable seeds and gardening equipment have seen a boom in business.
Seed seller Phạm Thị Hường, in Quốc Oai District, Hà Nội, said the number of customers buying vegetable seeds has skyrocketed, adding that sweet potato seeds are the best-selling product in the past week.
"I had 60 to 80 orders of seeds per day before social distancing, now this has increased to 300 bags per day in August and September,” Hường told Việt Nam News.
Hường used to pay more than VNĐ10 million to rent a store on Hoàng Hoa Thám Street, now she sells all her goods online.
She said: “The pandemic helps me save money. I don’t need to pay rent and can stay home, marketing my items online and taking care of my family.”
As a big seed supplier in District 12, HCM City, Hoàng Tuyết Loan said her revenue has doubled during the fourth wave of the pandemic. Currently, every day, she distributes 1,000 - 1,200 bags of vegetable seeds to all provinces and cities across the country.
As the city has been isolated, Loan also switched her business totally online, saying: “We distribute and sell through e-commerce platforms and our fanpages."
Loan said vegetable seeds such as lettuce and herbs are most sought after by customers, because these are short-term plants that are easy to grow and care for. The price for each bag of seeds usually ranges around VNĐ10,000.
Though there is not a data for the increase in the local market for gardening supplies in Việt Nam, the global business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platform Alibaba Group published “The Home & Gardening Industry Trends” report, mentioning that while the pandemic distances communities physically, it simultaneously opens doors for Vietnamese SMEs to explore their potential with global opportunities via online exporting.
The report revealing a tendency in which people feel more comfortable working from home, saying the trend has created significant changes in the Home & Gardening category’s purchasing volume, which was valued at over RMB1 trillion (US$154 billion), a 10 per cent year-on-year growth on the e-commerce platform and 90 per cent contribution to the sector growth, with some Vietnamese SMEs have succeeding on Alibaba.com in the home and gardening categories. They include Vixemco and Veritas Vietnam (Veritas) with their impressive performance since joining the platform earlier this year. — VNS