There have been many programmes to connect agricultural co-operatives and businesses, with encouraging results, but there are hurdles to developing linkages between them, they said.
Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Tran Thanh Nam said the biggest obstacle is the surge in supply during the harvest season and businesses’ inability to consume large quantities.
That is a common problem everywhere in the country, he said.
He called on co-operatives and farmers to tweak their cultivation to ensure steady supply for the whole year.
According to Pham Trung Kien, deputy general director of Saigon Co.op, to ensure quality and adequate supply of farm produce at its outlets and reduce intermediaries, Saigon Co.op has linked up with more than 20 co-operatives for around 16,000 tonnes of safe farm produce (mainly fruits and vegetables) a year.
It has also tied up with Tan Tien Co-operative in Vinh Long province to procure 130 tonnes of safe rice since September last year.
But Saigon Co.op has faced problems because farmers sometimes did not strictly comply with its requirements.
In Vinh Long, the scale of the project has not been consistent and has fluctuated between 45ha and 75ha due to the failure by co-operative members to participate consistently, he said.
He said co-operatives should develop long-term production plans, produce based on market demand, and apply advanced technologies in their production process.
Dinh Thi Phuong Khanh, deputy director of the Long An Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the province has over 11,500ha growing safe vegetables, producing over 186,000 tonnes a year.
It has 21 co-operatives and enterprises growing VietGap-certified vegetables on a total of 90ha, she said.
To be able to join retailers’ supply chains, farmers and agricultural co-operatives must obtain at least VietGap certification, but the cost of getting and renewing the certificate is very high, causing difficulties for the former.
“The Government should consider subsidising farmers,” she said.
She also said the Government should enhance inspection and supervision of the farming process and make zoning plans for safe farm produce so that it can solicit investors.
Nguyen Anh Dung, head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Agency for Agro-product Processing and Market Development, Region 1, said there are 700 supply chains for safe farm produce in 50 provinces and cities mainly for vegetables, fruits, tea, pork, egg, rice, and seafood.
However, demand for safe farm produce was much higher, he said.
The supply of safe farm produce was not diverse enough and there were not enough retail outlets, he said.
Tran Minh Hai of the College of Management for Agriculture and Rural Development II said developing linkages between producers (farmers and co-operatives) and businesses would be a win-win act.
Farmers/co-operative members would get market information and inputs, be taught farming techniques and helped with building brands and selling their products at reasonable prices, he said.
Businesses would have a steady supply with consistent quality, he said.
According to the Agency of Cooperatives and Rural Development, at the end of 2016 there had been 10,756 agricultural co-operatives in the country.