Harvesting potatoes in Da Lat. (Source: VNA)

Lam Dong (VNA) - The Central Highlands province of Lam Dong plans to ban non-local agricultural products from sale at Da Lat Agricultural Products Market beginning on September 15. 

The move came following recent cases in which farm produce imported from China have been disguised by local traders as Da Lat products and sold to other wholesale markets across the country, especially in Ho Chi Minh City. 

Under the regulation, the Da Lat Agricultural Products Market will only allow trade of agricultural products produced locally and registered with a Da Lat trademark.

The market will strictly ban trade of agricultural products grown outside Da Lat, especially potatoes, carrots and garlic imported from China. 

The market management board will also install four cameras to monitor the implementation of the regulation, according to authorities.

Nguyen Van Son, Vice Chairman of the People’s Committee of Da Lat city, said the Da Lat Agricultural Products Market (in Trai Mat area) was built to help local farmers sell farm produce from the locality. 

The issuance of the regulation was made based on a recommendation by the local authorities to the market management board and traders at the market. 

"The regulation is not an administrative order from the local government, so it does not violate current laws," he said. 

Vo Ngoc Hiep, Director of the province’s Department of Industry and Trade, said traders and agri-businesses had imported farm produce from China because of increasing orders from wholesale markets in the country. Some traders even imported up to 30-60 tonnes of potatoes in only two days. 

“Six establishments in Da Lat have been found importing products from China for preliminary processing to sell to wholesale markets in HCM City,” he said. 

Since June, 578 tonnes of Chinese potatoes worth 2.2 billion VND (94,480 USD) have been imported to the Da Lat Agricultural Products Market from China. 

The imported farm produce were mostly sold at Thu Duc wholesale market in HCM City, Phan Thiet Market, Phan Rang Market and Nha Trang Market, instead of in Da Lat.

Police in Da Lat recently found cases of Chinese potatoes repackaged as Da Lat farm produce.

The police said violators used a machine which washes 100 kilos of potatoes for three to four minutes, depending on potato size.

After being washed, potatoes are covered with soil from the Central Highlands region and then packaged into bags and labelled with stamps issued by the market management board.

Some traders even put red dirt inside the bags before sealing them to ensure that the dirt stays on the potatoes during transport to fool consumers.

Wholesalers are not concerned about the fraudulent practice, according to the authorities. 

Chinese potatoes are often bought at 3,500-4,000 VND per kilo, but when disguised as Da Lat produce, they are priced at 7,000-8,000 VND per kilo in the market. 

Da Lat police have confiscated two tonnes of Chinese potatoes and machines used to wash potatoes. Da Lat authorities last month fined two traders as they were putting Da Lat soil into 1.5 tonnes of Chinese potato imports that were made to look like Da Lat potatoes. They were going to be transported to HCM City and other provinces for consumption. The authorities also sanctioned one business selling Chinese potatoes without auxiliary labels in Vietnamese.

Da Lat, a resort city in Lam Dong province, is famous for its supply of clean organic farm produce to wholesale markets in the Central Highlands and southern region.-VNA