Organic farming: A new way of production
To meet demand and encourage consumers to say “No” to unsafe food, many companies have created organic products that are of good quality and safe for consumer health. However, promoting the marketing and sales of such products is another matter.
Businesses should reduce prices of organic products to attract more consumers
According to experts from the Ho Chi Minh City Nutrition Center, organic products are made in accordance with strict manufacturing processes and assessed periodically to ensure optimal quality and safety. Many supermarkets and other retail chains in Ho Chi Minh City sell products made according to organic standards.
Examples include a number of organic vegetable stores in the central area of District 13, along Nguyen Thi Minh Khai, Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Hai Ba Trung and Vo Thi Sau roads. Organic vegetables attract some consumers despite their much higher prices compared with non-organic products.
Nguyen Thi Hoai Trang, Manager of the Organica retail chain, said the company currently has four retail shops (three in Ho Chi Minh City and one in Da Nang), and is preparing for its presence in the north. “Our products have been examined and certified by foreign organizations, so they have won consumer trust despite high prices,” Trang said.
Major retail chains such as Saigon Co.op, Thanh Thanh Cong, Vinamilk and Vinamit have paid great attention to and invested in organic products. Saigon Co.op Deputy General Director Pham Trung Kien said Saigon Co.op has cooperated with the Vien Phu Company, the manufacturer of Hoa Sua brand rice, to invest in a more than 300ha farm in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau. Its agricultural products have been certified as meeting standards set by the US Department of Agriculture, the Japanese Agricultural Standard, the European Union and Naturland.
Earlier this year, Vinamilk opened its first European-standard organic dairy farm in Lam Dong Province. With investment totaling more than VND200 billion, the 76.2ha farm currently rears more than 500 cows giving 2,700kg of milk per day (the number of cows will increase in the future).
Organic food on sale at Organica and Co.opmart supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City
Seeking outlets for organic products
Although it is a leading retailer in Vietnam, Pham Trung Kien admitted that Saigon Co.op has encountered numerous difficulties when investing in agricultural products due to ingrained habits of chemical use in agricultural production, unclear policies and regulations, and a lack of quality control systems. “The number of organic product manufacturers is still very small. Moreover, most consumers remain unaware of the advantages of organic farming in comparison with traditional farming,” Kien said.
Similarly, it took Vinamilk many years to survey and find a suitable area for breeding dairy cows according to organic standards. Vinamilk spent three years on building its first European-standard organic dairy farm. The farm will be examined and assessed annually. Vinamilk’s organic fresh milk is sold at prices of VND55,000 per one-liter box and VND12,100 per 180ml-box, about 40 percent higher than non-organic fresh milk.
Lotte Mart Vietnam Communication Director Nguyen Ho Tu Trinh said this supermarket chain sells some organic products, including Vinamilk’s organic fresh milk. Due to high prices, organic products rank behind normal products in terms of sales volume.
In fact, most consumers remain doubtful of the quality of organic products. Nguyen Thi Be, a resident of Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh District, said she knows through the media that organic vegetables are good for health but has yet to make a choice among a variety of brands in the market because she doesn’t know which are truly organic.
Lam Ha, an American Vietnamese from Phu Nhuan District, said in the US, all products with organic labels have been certified by the US Department of Agriculture, but in Vietnam, businesses have to get their organic products certified by a foreign organization.
In the opinion of Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, Chairwoman of the Board at the Traceability Solutions and Services Joint Stock Company, weaknesses in distribution, brand building and communications will make it difficult for any product to reach consumers, despite its high quality. Minh believes that to promote sales of safe agricultural products, especially organic products, it is necessary to intensify communications to enable consumers to differentiate organic products from normal ones. For their part, businesses and cooperatives should increase marketing and create stronger brand identity.
Stefan Holler, an expert from Naturland e.V. (Germany), the organization granting European organic standard certifications, said to win and maintain consumer trust, farms and retailers have to seek certifications for their organic products annually.
Ho Chi Minh City Industry and Trade Department Deputy Director Nguyen Ngoc Hoa:
The department will tighten management of the quality and origin of organic products in the market to enhance the responsibility of manufacturers and traders, as well as to facilitate the sale of organic products.
For their part, businesses need to seek internationally recognized certifications for their organic products, along with intensifying communications and creating stronger brand identity to popularize their products.
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