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Farmers pulling to get produce into supermarts   2009-05-04 - TP

For the first time, the three biggest Vietnamese retailers have met representatives of agriculture cooperatives in the Cuu Long River Delta and eastern areas of the southern region to discuss ways to get farm produce into supermarts.


Farmers cannot get into supermarts


A paradox exists that while supermarts have a high demand for fresh vegetables and fruits, farmers still cannot get fresh farm produce to them.


Representatives from Coop Mart say that the supermart chain needs 70 tonnes of fresh vegetables and fruits of different kinds. Meanwhile, farmers still think that supermarts are not their ‘land’.


“I really want to sell products to supermarts, but I don’t know what to do to reach that goal,” said Nguyen Van Son, Chairman of Truong Thinh Cooperative in Chau Thanh district in Dong Thap province.


According to Son, Truong Thinh now has 200 ha of land, on which it cultivates four main kinds of fruit, oranges, lemons, guavas and longan, each of which yield 20-40 tonnes per day . Son said the cooperative is now selling the products to petty merchants from Hanoi and Hai Phong who purchase for resale in the cities.


Son said that the prices at which the petty merchants purchase Truong Thinh’s products fluctuate all the time.


Do Van Huynh, Deputy Chairman of Thanh Nghia Cooperative in Lam Dong province, said that every day Thanh Nghia has 7-10 tonnes of fresh fruits and vegetables and that it is also selling to petty merchants. Sales have been unstable because the petty merchants sometimes do not collect products when there is low demand. At which times, the cooperative’s members have to use the produce as manure.


Huynh related that several years ago, Thanh Nghia Cooperative once had a meeting with Coop Mart. The mart then agreed to take two tonnes of vegetables a day, but asked the cooperative to bring the vegetables to the mart. “We could not meet the requirement with our conditions,” he said.


According to distributors, the small production scale of farmers, the lack of specialised growing areas and production organisation which does not follow the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) prove to be the main reasons that keep farmers’ produce outside supermarts. Moreover, farmers lack experience and market information, as well as money to market their products.


What to do?


According to Nguyen Lam Vien, General Director of Vinamit, specialising in processed fruits, in order to get their products accepted by big distribution networks, farmers have to join forces and invest together.


Hanh Thu, Deputy General Director of Saigon Coop, which owns Coop Mart, said that supermarts are not able to collect produce from every farmer’s house. In order to bring products to supermarts, farmers should think of distributing goods via local institutions, like trade promotion agencies.


Thu said that Coop Mart has signed contracts on collecting safe vegetables with several vegetable cooperatives in the suburbs of HCM City, with the city’s Department for Agriculture and Rural Development acting as the bridge.


Coop Mart has also made investment in a production line for packaging safe vegetables in Cu Chi district, which gives the mart 5 tonnes of safe vegetables a day.


Coop plans to invest in a similar line for another cooperative in Hoc Mon district.


Meanwhile, Big C and Metro have also said they have been trying to help farmers produce safe vegetables in accordance with international standards, aiming to raise the percentage of locally-made farm produce at their supermarts.

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