Imports edge out local produce

Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014 08:19

Consumers buy imported fruit at Co-opmart in HCM City's Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street. Imported fruit has started to dominate locally-grown produce in big supermarkets. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu

HA NOI (Biz Hub) — Imported fruit has become increasingly prevalent on supermarket shelves despite being between three times to five times more expensive than domestic produce.

New Zealand kiwis, Australian grapes and American apples are now readily available in the aisles of Ha Noi supermarkets, while locally-grown fruit, such as longans, are becoming sparse despite being in season.

Local grocery stores are buying organic produce abroad in substantial quantities, denying opportunities for Vietnamese farmers to tap into domestic demand.

"Farmers mainly sell fruit to wholesalers. They are not used to marketing their products to supermarkets in the city as well as dealing with food safety and sanitation certificates," said agricultural cooperative owner Hoang The Loc.

Farmers are highly dependent on merchant wholesalers to purchase their produce and sell them to grocery stores or supermarkets.

Wholesaling also allows farmers to sell their produce without having to incur overhead costs associated with marketing, cleaning, processing and delivery to buyers.

"A lack of food safety certifications, as well as packaging and labeling standards has prevented domestic fruit from entering grocery stores and supermarkets," said chairman of the Ha Noi Association of Supermarkets, Vu Vinh Phu.

Supermarkets require producers to meet certain processing and food safety requirements, which means fruits and vegetables are rejected if they are misshapen or discoloured.

The tough standards present significant challenges for farm-grown produce, which is typically not packaged, refrigerated or branded.

Fivimart's deputy general director Vu Thi Hau, says supermarkets are more likely to make deals with distributors who can supply them in large volumes.

"Farmers should come together and choose one person as their legal representative. We would sign a contract with that person," said Vu Thi Hau, deputy general director of FiviMart.

She added that her company had sent representatives to the northern province of Bac Giang when the Luc Ngan lychee season was nearing peak production. However, the company's associates failed to convince local farmers to appoint a representative to oversee the delivery the fruit and contract negotiations.

Meanwhile, domestic consumers have contributed to the absence of domestic produce on supermarket shelves, often preferring to buy farm produce at open-air markets.

Local shopper Nguyen Thu Hai said: "I usually buy lychees, longans, custard apples, mangoes, bananas and other Vietnamese fruit at outdoor markets near home.

"The price is cheaper and the fruit is fresher. And I save money spent on parking my motorbike," she said. — VNS

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