Deputy Minister Tran 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 76,000ha 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 Da Lat, a unique thick-skinned orange in Tuyen Quang Province, rice by Ca Mau-based Vien Phu Green Farm and others.
In the domestic market, organic-certified products and products with environmental-friendly certification are increasingly seen in supermarket shelves, 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 HCM City and Danang.
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 300ha organic farm in Ca Mau Province growing agricultural produce certified by the USDA, JAS of Japan, the EU, and Naturland, Diep Dung, Saigon Co.op chairman, said.
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.
Nguyen Lam Vien, general director of Vinamit Joint Stock Company, said signing the deal with Saigon Co.op would help promote locally-made organic products.
Dung 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 market research company Nielsen, more consumers want products that are good for their health and do not hurt the environment.
Experts said organic agriculture offers advantages like 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.
There is no domestic certification organisation for organic products and growers have to depend on foreign organisations.
Prof Dr Pham Van Bien, 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 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.