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Organic farming key to healthy value chains

Organic farming key to healthy value chains  Organic production can help Vietnam deal with the skyrocketing prices of food, fuels and fertilisers caused by the recent turbulence in different parts of the world, according to Danish Ambassador to Vietnam Nicolai Prytz.

The ambassador was speaking at an experience-sharing seminar on organic production on November 25.

He said the agriculture landscape has been transformed over the last decades with the emergence of new plant varieties, animal breeds, technological innovations and farming techniques.

However, this transformation has come at an expense of negative environmental impacts, including soil degradation, soil pollution, and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

A shift to sustainable farming such as organic is a solution that not only tackles these challenges but also contributes to countries' efforts towards achieving United Nations' sustainability development goals by 2030.

"We are pleased to see that over the last few years the Vietnamese government has made a strong effort to develop its agricultural sector in sustainable way," said the ambassador.

Nguyen Quoc Toan, director of the Agro Processing and Market Development Authority, said organic production in Vietnam soared from 19,270ha in 2010 to 53,350ha in 2016, securing the third position in ASEAN.

By late 2021, the country had 17,174 organic producers, 555 processing facilities, 60 exporters and 40 importers. There are 32 authorised bodies in charge of organic certification and 102 bodies of registration-code-granting so far.

He underlined several factors that have been holding back organic transition in Vietnam, including the common practice of using inorganic substances in farming, the weak cooperation between firms and farmers, the underdevelopment of the domestic organic market, and the absence of a digital database for agriculture.

"Farmers are still quantity- rather than quality-focused. That's why they use inorganic fertilisers and pesticides intensively," said Toan.

He also said the country will push ahead with organic transition in the short term and aims to make the value delivered by each hectare of organic farming 1.8 times higher that of non-organic farming by 2030.

Truong Tuyet Mai, deputy director of the National Institute of Nutrition, asserted that organic foods are better than non-organic foods in terms of proteins, amino acids, and omega-3,6. On top of that, they are much less contaminated by pesticides, mycotoxins and cadmium, and are totally safe to human health.

She said Vietnamese consumers have begun to change their buying habit towards organic foods in recent years for their health benefits. A survey by Vietnam Report Goup in 2019 showed that 51.5 per cent of consumers in HCM City and Hanoi prefer organic foods to other types of foods.

However, there are still some factors that discourage organic consumption, including prices and availability. Organic foods are normally higher in price than non-organic ones, making them less accessible to low-income consumers.

Kirsten Lund Jensen, leader of Organic Department, Danish Agriculture and Food Council, revealed that Danish rules on organic farming are the same as those in other EU-member states.

She said EU regulations have an overall system of farm management and food production that combines best environmental practices, high level of biodiversity, preservation of natural resources and application of high animal welfare standards.

"Production methods should be in line with the preference of certain consumers for products produced using natural substances and processes," said Jensen.

Lise Walbom, CEO of Food Nation, said her company's Insight Report 2022 has a theme regarding health and sustainability.

The report shows that 25% of Vietnamese respondents associate organic with health and 90 per cent with sustainability. Additionally, 43% point to organic foods as a tool to create healthy value chains and 44% point to organic farming for the same reason./.