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Vietnamese catfish farmers sVietGAP refused by Vietnamese catfish farmersill keep indifferent to VietGAP, ignoring its great advantages. It’s simply because the export markets that Vietnam eyes do not recognize VietGAP.

One market, one certificate required

An expert said up to nine sets of standards for sustainable catfish farming have been applied in Vietnam. All of them have been designed based on FAO’s (the UN Food and Agriculture Organization) standards, which aim to four key issues – food safety, environment protection, animal health and social security.

However, every export market sets its own requirements. European consumers, for example, only accept the products with GlobalGAP certificate. Some of the European markets such as the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland now pay a special attention to the ASC labeling standard.

Meanwhile, the US is now applying GAA. And many other markets do not require any certificates for sustainable aquatic farming, such as East European and African ones.

The existence of too many standards and required certificates has made Vietnamese catfish farmers confused. Even central and local management agencies get puzzled when giving advices to farmers about what standards to follow.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has set up VietGAP a purely Vietnamese set of standards for Vietnamese farmers.

What VietGap strives for is to heighten the value chain of Vietnam’s catfish “from farms to dining tables,” to help catfish – the key export item of Mekong Delta provinces – develop in a sustainable way.

However, the path remains very thorny ahead.

Is VietGAP really useful?

According to Tuong Phi Lai, Director of the Center for Natural Resource Research and Rural Development RECERD, the biggest advantage of VietGAP in comparison with other standards is the simplicity, which makes it less costly and easier to follow for Vietnamese farmers.

However, Lai said VietGAP also has a big disadvantage that the export products with VietGAP certificate do not have much significance to the export markets.

Experts have agreed that VietGAP has been valid only on the domestic market; therefore, it cannot replace the existing standards being applied by the big export markets like the US, Japan or the EU.

Meanwhile, 90 percent of Vietnam’s catfish has been exported to the world market, not consumed in the domestic market.

In general, European importers develop their markets through distributors and retailers. Since consumers require the products with GlobalGAP or ASC, retailers would require the products with GlobalGAP and ASC from the importers. And the importers would work out with Vietnamese suppliers who can provide products with GlobalGAP and ASC.

A question has been raised that if the consumers, who now want GlobalGAP or ASC, would accept VietGAP as well?

Metro Cash & Carry Vietnam has worked out with Fresh Studio Innovations, a consultancy firm, to build up its own standards for seafood products – MetroGAP. The distributor has also set up a fresh seafood supply chain which would provide products on the domestic market, aiming to integrate farmers and small producers into its domestic retail network.

This means that seafood products need to satisfy MetroGAP to be eligible for entering Metro chain.

This shows that a certificate would not have much significance if it is not accepted by the markets. That explains why farmers complain that they have got tired of VietGAP. Vietnamese farmers have to spend time and money to organize production in accordance with the standards and obtain certificates. And they need to be sure that their money has not been wasted.

(Vietnam Net)

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