Vietnam takes first step on road to growing clean vegetables


Ho Chi Minh City will expand a pilot clean-vegetable project to eight other provinces upon its completion next month as the country moves toward developing its own Good Agriculture Practice standards. Duong Kim Ha, deputy director of the city Plant Protection Department (PPD)’s agricultural technology unit, said the pilot project’s results would be announced August 8.

It begun two years ago as the country’s first step in creating its own clean vegetable standards. The eight provinces that will take up the project next are Binh Duong, Tay Ninh, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Lam Dong, Long An, Tien Giang, Vinh Long and Dong Nai.

Vietnam is building VietGAP, with GAP standing for Good Agricultural Practice, for its agricultural products to meet international standards and a growing domestic demand for safe and environment-friendly products and to increase exports.

It is a version of GAP that countries around the world apply. For its part, HCMC plans to increase the area under clean vegetables from the current 4,370 hectares to 5,700 hectares and annual output to 580,000 tons by 2010. This will meet up to 70 percent of local demand. GAP emphasizes environment-friendly and efficient techniques at all stages of production, from seeding to delivering.

Ha said by using GAP techniques the city’s pilot project had obtained higher yields than is possible under traditional techniques. Forty three farming households in Nhuan Duc Commune, Cu Chi District, test-planted four varieties of vegetables – cucumber, chili, bitter melon, and okra – on 33.4 hectares. The output, sold under the label of Nhuan Duc Safe Vegetables to local supermarkets, has been lapped up by consumers, he said.

"The farmers have learned not to rely on traditional knowledge of irrigation and weather forecasting alone, but also use advanced farming techniques, including safer use of pesticides and carefully choosing seeds to ensure the maximum yield." Ha said his agency has also developed ways to register and authorize clean products. PPD will send experts to personally supervise farmers all the way from seeding to harvesting.

Only households registering with his agency would be licensed and provided a "clean vegetable" stamp on packages. He admitted much work is needed to upgrade VietGAP to the level of systems such as GlobalGAP. But he is confident about the future: "By 2010, Vietnam's clean vegetables and other agricultural products will meet international standards."