Increasing at an annual rate of 6 per cent, the vegetable sector in Vietnam is an important source of income for smallholder farmers, and provides nutritional security to the Vietnamese people. Vegetable production is currently focused in the urban-rural interfaces of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), and the specialised production region of Da Lat. Unlike Da Lat, which has developed infrastructure such as cool rooms and distribution centres, Hanoi and HCMC have limited capacity to supply the growing northern market due to low yields and high production costs. The transportation of vegetables from Da Lat to the northern market in unrefrigerated trucks means that poor quality produce is offered to customers. These complications have led to excess demand for temperate vegetables being supplemented through Chinese imports. However, both consumers and the Government sector have raised concerns regarding the safety of vegetable imports, and are seeking an alternative supply.
With peri-urban areas under increasing pressure to be developed into residential areas in HCMC and Hanoi, there is a need to find suitable alternative locations for vegetable production. Elevated growing regions in the Son La province have the potential to meet this demand, if developed appropriately. ACIAR project AGB-2009-053 seeks to analyse consumer demand and alternative marketing channels to develop small-holder based vegetable systems. The suitability of production environments in Son La will also optimise vegetable quality and yield. In this way, the project will strengthen the linkages, awareness and capacities of public and private stakeholders. The achievement of these objectives would create an effective and sustainable link between vegetable suppliers in northern Vietnam and modern retailers. The project forecasts that should be sector be successfully developed, regions in Son La could supply 50 per cent of total consumption during the six-month supply window. This will also achieve gains in consumer welfare, income generation and poverty alleviation for small-holder farmers in the province.
A Planning workshop held in Hanoi, March 2012: Resulted in a detailed log frame planning document to which all parties have agreed (Attachment 1): This planning was critically important to the project as it provides the various project teams with clear guidelines on what they have to achieve, and report against in the subsequent 12 months.
Safe vegetable certification: Safe vegetable certification has been achieved by the project team for the Tu Nhien village in Moc Chau. This has been of critical importance for the project because without this certification vegetables, cannot be supplied to any retail outlets in Hanoi. Achieving certification for one village means that supply of vegetables from March to Hanoi can commence and in the interim this accreditation can be used to supply produce from other two villages.
Metro requirement training: Fresh studio is implementing the training required for the achievement of metro requirement accreditation. This QA standard is essentially the same as VietGAP, and so once villagers have achieved Metro requirement accreditation they will be well placed to then achieve VietGAP accreditation in the future.
Village selection confirmed: The villages involved in the project have been confirmed, these are the Ta Niet, An Thai and Tu Nhien villages. The Chien Di village has been dropped from the project as there are only two farmers interested, and it is also the site of a Dutch-funded the project being managed by Fresh Studio. Our project team however is fully aware of and participating in trials being conducted at the Chien Di.
Baseline surveys in Moc Chau: The following baseline surveys have been carried out:
1. Baseline economics survey: This has established baseline socio-economic data for all three villages on items such as income, expenditure, size and shape of enterprises and provides information on which to compare the outcomes of trading with the retail sector in Hanoi and other markets.
2. Baseline agronomic survey: a detailed capability survey was undertaken by Hanoi University of agriculture, specifically in relation to the level of agronomic skills among vegetable growers. Conducted at two of the project villagers, An Thai and Ta Niet.
3. Physical and environmental baseline survey: a detailed report on the physical resources available in the Moc Chau region. Includes important information on climate, soils, water resources, pastes and diseases, cropping and other agricultural activity in the region.
Farmer business school review complete: The project team has produced a review of the farmer business school concept, including how this concept applies to the current project (Attachment 6). In keeping with this report, essentially all farmer training undertaken as part of this project becomes the fabric of the farm business school approach. FBS can be seen as an overarching framework for farmer training in agronomy, soils, postharvest, safe vegetable production, marketing, farm management and business planning in much the same way value chains can be considered a framework for all aspects of crop production, processing, transportation and marketing to consumers.
Vegetable supply coordination from the three villages organised and being coordinated by Fresh Studio and NOMAFSI: The Vietnam-based consulting firm Fresh Studio has been formally engaged by the project. Year one activities are focussed on coordination of supply from Moc Chau to Hanoi, training in post harvest techniques, safe vegetable certification and associated record keeping.
Consumer survey work complete in Hanoi: CASRAD and FAVRI have undertaken a well structured and implemented consumer survey from retail outlets and annoying using a sample size of 303 participants and this has resulted in some clear indications of what consumers associate with the Moc Chau region which will form the basis for the marketing strategy.
Record keeping system designed and is being implemented in a collaborative effort between NOMAFSI, HUA and Fresh Studio, which will form part of future feedback to farmers about project outcomes. There has been a major effort from Hanoi University of agriculture staff, Fresh Studio and NOMAFSI to design and implement a system of record keeping that will allow farmers to keep the records they require to comply with safe vegetable quality assurance systems, and also provide the basic information farmers will need to understand and analyse their economic performance. The collaboration between groups has been highly synergistic and the level of cooperation from all team members is welcomed.
Staffing levels in Moc Chau: NOMAFSI have provided three full-time research assistants, one for each village to work closely with farmers and other agencies to achieve the outcomes of the project. Some of the work the NOMAFSI staff are doing is beyond the scope of the project as originally conceived, and this additional effort should be formally acknowledged and rewarded should there be a project variation.
Variety evaluation trials complete for year 1 and commenced for year 2: Vegetable variety trials have been conducted successfully in new one. Crops evaluated include tomato, lettuce, cabbage and sweet pepper. A number of local and international see companies as well as AVRDC provided varieties for this evaluation.
Protected cropping (tunnel and house type): A major issue constraining successful production of vegetables in Moc Chau is the heavy rainfall during the production season, leading to high levels of disease and other post-harvest problems. Low-cost protective cropping structures built from bamboo, plastic and local materials have been established at all villages and are being evaluated by the project team.
Consumer survey and marketing workshop: was held with CASRAD and run by John Baker where consumer survey principles for fresh produce were discussed and the new consumer survey for Hanoi was designed.
Regional survey work carried out in Moc Chau and engagement with the local community leaders commenced: stakeholder workshop was held in April 2012 in an attempt to engage with the local community leaders in Moc Chau.
Training plan developed and implemented. A number of farm business schools have already been conducted in the following areas (see section 4 for more detail). :
Safe vegetable production
Retail markets established in Hanoi (Metro Cash and Carry, FiviMart, Big C): these markets is of critical importance to the project are now farmers from Moc Chau are able to, and have commenced supplying their vegetable crops are to these retail outlets.
Regular newsletter established: a regular newsletter containing reports from Vietnamese and Australian partners is being written and distributed to all project team members and stakeholders.