Corralling the rogue fertiliser market is a pressing concern for the Vietnamese government, in a country where the economy is significantly reliant on agricultural production; agriculture currently accounts for 20% of economic growth.
Nguyen Hac Thuy, General Secretary of Vietnam Fertiliser Association, said weak management of the fertiliser can be sourced to overlaps between ministries, lack of transparency and inadequate deterrence. These factors have wrought disorder from production to distribution. The prevalence of fake and poor-quality products has caused economic damages worth billions of dollars and upturned the livelihoods of farmers.
The association’s investigation found many fertilizer products labeled “53% nutrient content” on its package--with actual nutrient content only at 3%, Thuy said. He cited assessments of the Institute of Criminal Sciences, which also found that the nutrient content of some samples was only at 1,9%, and the remaining was all limestone power.
“The quality of fake fertilisers are no different to natural land in many regions,” Thuy said.
He added that the association surveyed about 80% of the provinces and cities and found that there were more than 800 fertiliser production plants across the country.
Thuy said that punishments for producing and trading fake and poor-quality fertilisers were not strong enough. He also questioned why many poor-quality fertilisers passed tests.
According to Dam Thanh The, Standing Office Chief of the National Steering Committee for Combating Against Smuggling, Commercial Frauds and Counterfeit Goods, the sources of disorders in the fertiliser market are varied. He specifically pointed to management overlap between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Industry and Trade and to a surplus of leniency toward offenders.
Nguyen Huy Cuong, Deputy Director of the Plantation Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, pointed to another source of troubles. In the world, there were around 300 standard kinds of fertilisers. In Vietnam, there are a whopping 7,000, causing confusion in differentiating genuine from fake products.
Cuong also agreed that it is not effective that two ministries managed one product. Under the Government’s Decree 202/2013/NĐ-CP, inorganic fertiliser is under the management of industry and trade ministry while the agriculture ministry is in charge of managing organic fertiliser. This also caused difficulties for firms, Cuong said.
Experts at the conference proposed that a single ministry should take charge of fertiliser management.
In addition, fertiliser regulations should be amended towards specifying local authorities’ accountability.
Additionally, punishments on violators must be sufficiently deterrent, experts said.
The association also urged checks to eliminate plants which did not meet requirements in order to reorganise the fertiliser market.