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Ministry to scrutinise VietGap certifications after fake labels found on vegetables

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is investigating reports of vegetables sold in supermarkets being marked with fake Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGap) labels.

Vegetables on a supermarket shelf. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is investigating reports of vegetables being sold with fake VietGap labels. — VNA/VNS Photo

According to Nguyen Nhu Cuong, director of the ministry’s Department of Crop Production, there are more than 40 units eligible for VietGap certification, of which 12 are under the department’s management. The rest were under the management of the ministry’s National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (Nafiqad) and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Cuong said that the department will set up inspection groups to scrutinise the certification of VietGap, stressing that violators will face strict sanctions.

Navidad also asked food safety management authorities of HCM City, Da Nang, Bac Ninh and departments of agriculture and rural development of Central-level provinces and cities to verify the sale of fake VietGap vegetables.

Few days ago, several companies were alleged to buy uncertified vegetables at wholesale markets, label them with VietGap stickers, then supply supermarkets and safe-food store chains.

Vu Thi Hau, president of the Association of Vietnamese Retailers, said that fake VietGap vegetables were significantly affecting the retail system and undermining the trust of consumers. The problem stems from lax management and supervision.

Hau called for solutions that enhance the management of agricultural products along with strict punishments to prevent similar deeds.

Nguyen Anh Duc, a representative from Saigon Co.op, said that fake VietGap labels on vegetables seriously affect Vietnamese brands.

Although retailers want to buy directly from farms and not go through intermediaries to control the product quality, it is difficult due to the small and scattered production scale, together with problems related to invoices, Duc said.

It was necessary to raise policies establishing farm-to-table supply chains, Duc said. The focus should be placed on increasing the traceability of origin.

Nafiqad’s Director Nguyen Nhu Tiep said that quality control was not only the responsibility of the management agencies but also of the producers, processors, distributors, and retailers.

Tiep admitted that post-VietGap quality management remained loose. However, he said that the department would focus on enhancing quality control of products at three major wholesale markets Tan Xuan, Binh Dien and Hoc Mon.

In an urgent meeting on Thursday, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Le Minh Hoan said that standardising agricultural product quality in the domestic market was mandatory.

The quality standardisation should start first from roadside markets, traditional markets, then supermarkets and distributors, Hoan said.

“We can not accept ease from the smallest point. This will be one of the key tasks of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development until the end of this year.

“We have a long way to go.”

Hoa Binh Province had the famous Cao Phong orange, but when Vinh oranges had better prices, sellers introduced their Hoa Binh orange as Vinh, Hoan said, adding that this was not only a problem of productivity but also of quality and food safety control.

“It was true that we have long only encouraged Viet Nam and have not forced all supermarkets to sell VietGap products. However, selling fake VietGap products must be strictly handled.” Hoan said.

If there were separate spaces for certified and uncertified products on supermarkets’ shelves, he added that consumers would have their choice.

Hoan called for all retail systems, enterprises, associations, and communication agencies to create an ecosystem for agricultural products.

“We do it transparently and kindly, not only for exports but also for the domestic market of more than 100 million people,” he stressed.

He also asked relevant departments to review all standards, regulations and sanctions for necessary amendments.

Nafiqad’s statistics showed that the number of farming establishments applying VietGap and Vietnamese Good Animal Husbandry Practices has increased rapidly, from 1,845 establishments with a total area of 20,000 hectares in 2018 to 6,211 and 463,000 hectares in 2021, respectively. By September, the number reached 8,304 establishments with a total area of 480,000 hectares. — VNS

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