Ministry to scrutinise VietGap certifications after fake labels found on vegetables

Several companies were alleged to buy uncertified vegetables at wholesale markets, label them with VietGap stickers, then supply supermarkets and safe-food store chains.

Vegetables on a supermarket shelf. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is investigating reports of vegetables being sold with fake VietGap labels. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is investigating reports of vegetables sold in supermarkets being marked with fake Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGap) labels. 

According to Nguyễn Như Cường, director of the ministry’s Department of Crop Production, there are more than 40 units eligible for VietGap certification, of which 12 are under the department’s management. The rest were under the management of the ministry’s National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department (Nafiqad) and the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Cường said that the department will set up inspection groups to scrutinise the certification of VietGap, stressing that violators will face strict sanctions.

Navidad also asked food safety management authorities of HCM City, Đà Nẵng, Bắc Ninh and departments of agriculture and rural development of Central-level provinces and cities to verify the sale of fake VietGap vegetables.

Few days ago, several companies were alleged to buy uncertified vegetables at wholesale markets, label them with VietGap stickers, then supply supermarkets and safe-food store chains.

Vũ Thị Hậu, president of the Association of Vietnamese Retailers, said that fake VietGap vegetables were significantly affecting the retail system and undermining the trust of consumers. The problem stems from lax management and supervision.

Hậu called for solutions that enhance the management of agricultural products along with strict punishments to prevent similar deeds.

Nguyễn Anh Đức, a representative from Saigon Co.op, said that fake VietGap labels on vegetables seriously affect Vietnamese brands. 

Although retailers want to buy directly from farms and not go through intermediaries to control the product quality, it is difficult due to the small and scattered production scale, together with problems related to invoices, Đức said.

It was necessary to raise policies establishing farm-to-table supply chains, Đức said. The focus should be placed on increasing the traceability of origin.

Nafiqad’s Director Nguyễn Như Tiệp said that quality control was not only the responsibility of the management agencies but also of the producers, processors, distributors, and retailers.

Tiệp admitted that post-VietGap quality management remained loose. However, he said that the department would focus on enhancing quality control of products at three major wholesale markets Tân Xuân, Bình Điền and Hóc Môn.

In an urgent meeting on Thursday, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Lê Minh Hoan said that standardising agricultural product quality in the domestic market was mandatory.

The quality standardisation should start first from roadside markets, traditional markets, then supermarkets and distributors, Hoan said.

“We can not accept ease from the smallest point. This will be one of the key tasks of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development until the end of this year.

“We have a long way to go.”

Hoà Bình Province had the famous Cao Phong orange, but when Vinh oranges had better prices, sellers introduced their Hoà Bình orange as Vinh, Hoan said, adding that this was not only a problem of productivity but also of quality and food safety control.

“It was true that we have long only encouraged Việt Nam and have not forced all supermarkets to sell VietGap products. However, selling fake VietGap products must be strictly handled.” Hoan said.

If there were separate spaces for certified and uncertified products on supermarkets’ shelves, he added that consumers would have their choice.

Hoan called for all retail systems, enterprises, associations, and communication agencies to create an ecosystem for agricultural products.

“We do it transparently and kindly, not only for exports but also for the domestic market of more than 100 million people,” he stressed.

He also asked relevant departments to review all standards, regulations and sanctions for necessary amendments.

Nafiqad’s statistics showed that the number of farming establishments applying VietGap and Vietnamese Good Animal Husbandry Practices has increased rapidly, from 1,845 establishments with a total area of 20,000 hectares in 2018 to 6,211 and 463,000 hectares in 2021, respectively. By September, the number reached 8,304 establishments with a total area of 480,000 hectares. — VNS