HCM City wants to ensure all agricultural produce sold through modern distribution channels are traceable and safe for consumption (Photo: sggp.org.vn)

HCM City (VNA/VNA) – Ho Chi Minh City is seeking to improve the traceability of agricultural produce sold through both modern and traditional retail channels to improve food safety.

By the end of this year, it aims to have all goods sold through modern distribution channels meet VietGap standards, have proper packaging and brands and be traceable through mobile phones, according to the municipal Department of Industry and Trade.

The city has been piloting ways to improve traceability of the products since January last year.

Cu Chi district’s Phu Loc Agricultural Cooperative has for instance been using QR code stamps, which allow customers to see the entire farming and transportation process.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has been organising training classes for farmers and providing them with equipment to upload data about product origin.

Binh Chanh district’s Phuoc An Agricultural Cooperative said ever since it began to affix the QR stamps the reputation of its products had been rising.

However, Phu Loc has to cope with many challenges: The wide variety of its produce means it requires skilled and meticulous supervisors, while maintaining the systems and restocking stamps are costly.

Data entry is not too efficient, with officials having to meet each farmer to collect data while traceable produce is not a priority for many retailers and distributors.  

The Ministry of Industry and Trade said most traditional markets, which account for most of the food distributed in the country, sell goods whose origins are not traceable and do not keep records or receipts.

Phuoc An said many farmers were still struggling to enter data using modern technology, and unstable internet connections in remote areas meant that uploading data could take a long time.

Dao Ha Trung, Chairman of the HCM City High Technology Association, said developing a comprehensive database for various vegetables and medicinal herbs and contacting all the provinces that supply produce to HCM City were extremely difficult tasks.

The association was working on using affordable technologies to help co-operatives improve their products’ traceability.

A representative of GS1 Vietnam, a barcode organisation, said many businesses in HCM City’s wholesale markets used barcodes to keep track of goods sold.

However, they did not have a consistent standard for product tracing and it planned to create one, it said.

According to a survey by the association, the city’s wholesale markets receive around 2.5 million tonnes of vegetables and fruits from other provinces.

After agricultural goods, the city will shift its focus to other foods.-VNS/VNA