by Xuan Huong
HCM CITY — Applying good agricultural practices (VietGap) to vegetable farming has improved the lives of the members of HCM City's Phuoc An Cooperative, according to its chairman.
Tran Van Thich said the application of VietGap has helped cut costs while improving vegetable quality.
The co-operative's profits shot up from VND210.3 million (US$10,080) in 2009 to nearly VND325 million last year, he said, expecting it to reach VND500 million this year.
Workers' salaries have doubled to VND3 million now, he added.
The co-operative and its members had faced many difficulties at the time of switching to the new standard because it was quite different from their traditional practices, he said.
Nguyen Thi Le Hoa, a city official from an agency that oversees safe vegetable production, said the task required close monitoring in the form of maintaining detailed records of soil treatment, water sources, use of fertilisers and pesticides, the time of harvest, processing and transport, making it hard on farmers.
Speaking at a meeting in HCM City last Friday to review a pilot project on using good production practices in vegetable farming at Phuoc An and another co-operative, Tan Trung, she said her agency has been working hard to help farmers maintain detailed records since 2009 when the project began.
"But farmers now understand and carefully follow VietGap operating procedures, especially record keeping," she said.
Farmers joining the pilot project were not only instructed in production techniques but also taught about brand building and marketing and provided with guaranteed outlets for their vegetables.
Thich said vegetable growers' incomes used to be extremely unstable in the past due to price fluctuations.
But all of the cooperative's vegetables have assured outlets now, while the new farming techniques help cut costs, offering more profit, he said.
Hoa said many vegetable farmers have registered to apply VietGap standards after seeing the efficiency of the model.
Last week the HCM City Department of Agriculture and Rural Development certified that Phuoc An and Tan Trung Cooperatives met VietGap standards.
Hoa said the standards would be applied by more vegetable co-operatives in the coming time, including Phu Loc, Phuoc Binh, and Hung Dien Co-operatives.
Nguyen Van Duc Tien, head of the city Plant Protection Sub-department, said: "The city plans to set up retail stalls at wholesale markets such as Binh Dien and Thu Duc to provide more outlets for safe vegetables."
The pilot project is part of the food agricultural product quality development and control project funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.
Currently 182 individuals and organisations growing vegetables on 90ha have received the VietGap certificate, and supply around 11,450 tonnes of safe vegetables every year. — VNS