Application of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in agricultural production to promote quality and safety is expected to help Vietnamese farm produce gain wider acceptance in both domestic and international markets, experts said at a conference in HCM City last Saturday.
GAP is a collection of principles that apply to on-farm production and post-production processes, ensuring the health of both producers and consumers, reducing environmental pollution, and resulting in the production of safe and healthy food as well as products with easily traceable origins.
Speaking at the Safe Food Chain conference, Dr Vo Mai, deputy chairwoman of the Vietnam Gardening Association, said with increased incomes, people tend to choose safer, healthier products.
GAP standards will help customers feel secure when buying Vietnamese farm produce, especially fruit and vegetables.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation has forecast that demand for fruit and vegetables in the world market will increase annually by 3.6 per cent while such output increases by just 2.8 per cent per year.
In the domestic market, consumption of fruit and vegetables has increased by 10 per cent a year.
These offer a huge opportunity for agricultural countries like Vietnam to boost exports of fruit and vegetables, Mai said.
But high requirements on food safety and plant quarantine set by import countries pose major challenges for Vietnamese farm produce to penetrate the markets, she said.
Application of GAP in production in the country was still modest, Pham Hoang Nam of the Agricultural Study and Assistance Center said, adding that only 47ha under vegetable plantation in HCM City had received VietGap certification.
Small-scale production and a lack of cooperation among farmers, co-operatives and businesses prevented application of GAP in production, he said.
In addition, outlets for GAP products were not stable, discouraging farmers from following GAP standards, Mai said.
Applying GAP standards for agricultural production would help reduce production costs, raise quality and increase the competitiveness of Vietnamese goods in both domestic and foreign markets, Dr Mai Thanh Phung of the National Agriculture Extension Center, said.
But farmers themselves could not implement the entire process of production following GAP standards, he said. They need support from government, scientists and enterprises.
Local agricultural extension centers, for instance, should organise training courses to raise awareness among farmers about application of GAP in production as well as instruct them in production techniques that are in line with GAP standards, especially writing notes in a handbook, he said.
Mai said the local government should support farmers with capital so they can improve their post-harvest technology to reduce post-harvest losses. Currently the country loses between 30 and 40 per cent of its harvest due to inefficiencies in its post-harvest handling of food crops.
Mai and Phung agreed that close links between enterprises and farmers, in which enterprises ensure outlets for all products produced following GAPGAP standards in their production. standards, would help farmers feel secure to apply
Close links between enterprises and farmers could also help reduce intermediate costs to make products more competitive and raise farmers’ earnings, Mai said.
Mai also called on localities and farmers to make re-zoning plans for their fields to facilitate application of GAP standards in production.
The conference was organised by the Vietnam Farms and Agricultural Enterprises Association. At the event, the association was awarded the Campaign Medal from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for its contribution to the development of Vietnamese agriculture, farmers and rural areas.