Good Food for Cities

Building Value: from quality standards to consumer trust

September 14, 2021
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Farmers, food processors, distributors, consumers, consumers’ associations, government agencies, food quality certification bodies and food inspection agencies are all key actors in the food supply chain. Their coordination and participation are crucial to enhancing consumers' trust and contributing to the shift towards a safe and sustainable urban food system.

Rikolto collaborated with the Women’s Initiative for Start-ups and Entrepreneurship (WISE) in facilitating a virtual discussion around the topic: How to ensure that the quality and value of the product is assured from the farm to the table?

On 31 August, more than 100 representatives of producers’ organisations, government agencies, food quality certification bodies and consumers attended the workshop titled "Building Value - From Quality Standards to Consumer Trust”. The focus was on building and ensuring product value and quality and offering solutions to improve food safety management.

The dialogue provided the participants with useful information related to the market, the quality standards and regulations and the management of production and consumption. The participants also exchanged insights around the challenges they face during the production phase and around enterprises’ consumer-based approach. They discussed how to address quality issues in the field and in the consumer market and proposed solutions to improve the food safety management system through the participation of all parties.

A changing panorama

Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Ly, former Deputy Director of Quacert, one of the largest certification bodies in Vietnam, believes that with 4.0 supported technologies, food quality management is guaranteed along the value chain, bringing quality food from farm to fork. Why? The market management is carried out according to specific requirements (food quality standards, regulations and quality assessment procedures), the product competition is no longer based on price but also on quality and the development process takes new steps towards sustainability addressing the demands of a more demanding public of consumers.

The government’s intervention is following the same trend. Producers, retailers and distributors have to meet a set of standards and regulations to enter the market. The government is no longer focusing on granting licences and certificates, but rather monitoring the regulation and standard compliance (post-inspection processes). As such, food safety and quality risks become a direct responsibility of producers and suppliers..

What are the shared challenges?

The workshop was also an opportunity for producers to share their experiences in creating product value and the difficulties and challenges they face during this process.

According to Ms. Nguyen Thi Mai, Director of Vinh Ha safety food production and trading joint stock company, the biggest difficulty in convincing farmers to grow vegetables according to organic PGS standards was to change the farmers’ or cooperative leaders’ mindset. Inspiring farmers and helping them to change their ways of thinking, adopting, and replicating new models requires patience and determination.

In addition, farmers’ cooperatives and producers should establish a good and stable market connection from the very beginning to prevent farmers from giving up during the production, leading to supply breakdowns.

“The application of advanced techniques in farming and production, along with product diversification, are key to increasing farmers’ incomes.” said Mr. Mai Duc Thinh, Director of 19/05 Agricultural Service Cooperative. Today’s cooperative’s goal is to ensure a stable product quality along the transportation chain.

To build and ensure consumer trust, enterprises should select appropriate production standards and transparent monitoring processes, and invest in packaging and marketing. - Mr. Ngo Van Nghi - Head of Thanh Xuan Organic Vegetable Production Intergroup and Director of Trung Na Village Service Cooperative

The takeovers: the role of governments and consumers

As Mr. Bui The Hung - Specialist of the General - Planning – Finance Department, General Department of Market Management - highlighted, the weaknesses in traceability management and violations of safety production requirements are the significant issues of the wholesale markets and wet markets - the main food supply channels of the urban food system.

Government agencies, such as the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, need to synchronously develop and implement:

  • regulations on traceability, especially for agricultural products stamping and labelling,
  • policies to support investments and facilitate access to advanced technologies that will reduce costs for smallholder farmers and retailers,
  • an overall communication strategy around food safety and quality,
  • monitoring and post-inspection processes.

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The consumers’ rights to high quality, nutritious and safe food can only be ensured with the involvement of government agencies. In the future, our Association will strengthen connections with reputable and quality production enterprises that will be presented to consumers. Mr. Vu Van Trung - Vice President and General Secretary of the Vietnam Consumer Protection Association

Consumers should be smart and knowledgeable so as to be able to self-assess the quality and value of the products they want to buy. To empower them to make these choices, it is necessary to mobilise associations and civil society organisations at all levels to provide consumers with the necessary knowledge and to protect their interests.

The ideas discussed at the Workshop will be synthesised and studied by Rikolto. They will be embedded in the development of the activities promoting healthy, sustainable and nutritious food in the urban food systems, and supporting stakeholders to improve urban food production, management, distribution, and consumption chains.

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