Saigon’s vegetable origin-tracing program stumbles over label provider

A program launched in January allowing Ho Chi Minh City residents to trace the origin of vegetables via a QR code scan is raising eyebrows over who really provides the QR-coded labels.

saigon’s vegetable origin-tracing program stumbles over label provider hinh 0
The first batch of traceable greens hit selected markets in Ho Chi Minh City on January 17, with a full-scale rollout scheduled for April.

When the program was first announced earlier this year by the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD), the Digital Agriculture Association (DAA) was named the official provider of technical solutions for the program, responsible for digitalizing data and providing labels for the vegetables.

The DAA is a socio-occupational organization whose members are agricultural businesses in Vietnam that “yearn to employ science and modern technology in their production,” according to the association’s official website.

However, customers who shop for traceable vegetables in Ho Chi Minh City since the program’s launch have been confused to find the produce bearing labels provided by another company, TraceVerified Solutions & Services JSC.

TraceVerified started in 2011 as a project funded by the Danish government’s Global Competitiveness Facility to develop electronic traceability software for food exporters from Vietnam.

Its founder and chairwoman is Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, former Deputy Minister of Fisheries.

According to Bui Xuan Quynh, vice chairman of Phu Loc Cooperative, one of the vegetable producers taking part in the program, his organization has not heard from the DAA since the launch of the program, leaving them with no choice but to use labels provided by TraceVerified instead.

“We can provide as much as 12 metric tons of traceable vegetables a day, but have been reluctant to expand our business due to the label hassle,” Quynh said.

Facing the same problem, Ho Chi Minh City-based green producer Phuoc An Cooperative has only been able to enter 18 out of their 38 vegetable products into the program using TraceVerified-provided labels.

“We have requested the DAA to carry out inspections at our farms multiple times but their response has been silence so far,” said Dao Thanh Duc, vice chairman of Phuoc An Cooperative. “The delay has gravely affected our business.”

In another development, TraceVerified has sent complaint letters to the Ho Chi Minh City administration, the DARD, and DAA Chairman Truong Gia Binh, accusing the association of using their data without authorization for its own traceability technology.

The letter, penned by TraceVerified Chairwoman Dr. Nguyen Thi Hong Minh, claimed that TraceVerified had been the first to offer traceability technology for vegetables produced by Phu Loc and Phuoc An Cooperatives, in accordance with contracts signed in June and November 2016 respectively with different DARD bodies.

However, during press conferences prior to the launch of the latest program, the DAA wrongfully switched TraceVerified labels for their own on the displayed vegetables, despite using the same database, Dr. Minh pointed out.

“This is a serious violation of TraceVerified’s patent, honor and reputation, damaging our competitiveness in the market,” she underlined.

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper’s requests for comment from the DAA’s vice chairman, Nguyen Truong Son, have been unanswered.

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