Vietnam: Demand Grows for Organic Products

Demand for organic products is increasing significantly both in Vietnam and globally, which is good news for Vietnamese businesses investing in the area, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

Deputy Minister Trần Thanh Nam said many countries had begun to adopt organic agricultural practices, and the area under organic farming is increasing. “In Vietnam the area has increased by 3.6-fold since 2010 to more than 76,000 hectares now.”

Though it is still very modest compared to the total farming area, businesses and organisations apply international organic standards, and certified organic products are exported to many markets, including the US and EU, he said.

According to the Vietnam Organic Agriculture Association, the country exports small quantities of organic products like tea, shrimp, rice, cinnamon, anise, and attar. There are also some successful organic models to grow tea and vegetables by Ecolink and Ecomart, vegetables by Organik Đà Lạt, (a unique thick-skinned orange from Tuyên Quang Province), rice by Cà Mau-based Viễn Phú Green Farm and others.

In the domestic market, certified organic products, and products with environmental-friendly certification, are increasingly seen in supermarkets, shops and websites, with cosmetics, milk, fruits and vegetables, attar, spices, coffee and tea being the most popular. For instance, Organica, which sells imported and local fruits, vegetables and many other products, is a familiar address to many consumers in Ho Chi Minh City and Đà Nẵng.

Lotte Mart now has shelves for displaying organic products, mainly shampoo, facial cleansing milk and shower cream. To meet the increasing demand for organic products, domestic retailers and businesses are seeking collaboration and investment opportunities in the organic agriculture sector to reduce costs.

Saigon Co.op recently unveiled four groups of products under the Co.op Organic brand: rice; cucumber, squash, tomato; choy sum, mustard green, water spinach; and basa fish fillet and black tiger shrimp. The company invested in a 300 hectares organic farm in Cà Mau Province growing agricultural produce certified by the USDA, JAS of Japan, the EU, and Naturland, Diệp Dũng, according to Saigon Co.op chairman.

The co-operative recently signed agreements with Vinamit JSC, Germany’s Binca Group, international organic certification organisation Control Union, Peterson Consultancy, and Vietwatch to develop its organic products to international standards. Nguyễn Lâm Viên, general director of Vinamit Joint Stock Company, said signing the deal with Saigon Co.op would help promote locally-made organic products.

Dũng said Saigon Co.op would continue to expand its list of both food and non-food organic items, and seek to become a leader of the organic production-processing-distribution- consumption chain in both the Vietnamese and export markets.

According to Nielsen, more consumers want products that are good for their health and do not hurt the environment. Experts said organic agriculture offers advantages, like a lack of pesticides residues, helping increase the value of agricultural and aquaculture products and having a greater likelihood of being accepted in choosy markets. But companies in the field also face many challenges, they said.

A major challenge is there is no domestic certification organisation for organic products and growers have to depend on foreign organisations. Prof Dr Phạm Văn Biên, former director of the Institute of Agricultural Science for Southern Vietnam, said “Vietnam still lacks national standards and a comprehensive legal framework for production, certification and quality control of organic agricultural products. The Government should soon have in place policies, mechanisms and a national standard system to make it easy for businesses and farmers”.

Nam said his ministry had worked with other relevant ministries to counsel the government in setting up a legal framework and national standards for organic farming to boost organic agriculture and building brands for organic products.

The country has enough natural and social conditions to develop organic farming, especially products like vegetables, fruits, rice, tea, and fisheries, he said. Existing and proposed free trade agreements would bring opportunities for exports, especially of organic produce, he added.

Ecovia Comment
Although relatively late, Vietnam is looking to catch the ‘organic train’. Apart from the environmental benefits of organic agriculture, other Asian countries have realised there are many economic benefits.  By getting a premium for organic crops, farmers get higher incomes to help economic growth. Asian countries also generate hard currency by exporting to western countries. As Vietnamese producers realise such benefits, expect to see a significant rise in organic food production.

An update on the global organic food market will be given in the premier Asia-Pacific edition of the Sustainable Foods Summit, hosted in Singapore on 28-29th November. More details are on the website

Source: Viet Nam News / Ecovia (07/06)