Some thoughts on organic farming in Vietnam

Wednesday, 2017-02-01 11:57:58
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NDO - Organic farming is a movement that promotes the production of food in a green and clean manner without the use of chemicals and synthetic fertilisers all the way from the field to the table.

If Vietnam chooses to pursue organic agriculture, it will have the opportunity to achieve sustainable growth. The green choice approach is also the path to conserve and promote traditional values of the nation.

Two contrasting trends

In 1939 Northbourne first coined the term organic farming. Immediately after that, the organic farming movement began as a strong reaction of society against chemical-laden and environmentally polluting agricultural methods.

According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, organic agriculture is a method of farming, processing and preserving agricultural products and food without the use of any toxic chemicals such as pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, chemical fertilisers, growth stimulants, synthetic antibiotics and chemical preservatives.
Organic farming attaches importance to protecting biodiversity, balancing the natural ecosystem as well as maintaining and enhancing human health in all phases from farming, processing, distribution to consumption.

Currently there exists two conflicting trends in the world, namely “burning” and “greening”. Burning refers to the burning, decomposing and processing of energy, materials and organic substances. Meanwhile greening is the reverse process, creating green vegetation while restoring biodiversity and the harmony between nature and mankind. The relationship between the burning and greening processes will determine the future of nations and the existence of the Earth. In addition to farming, the organic movement also includes a new way of thinking and a responsible way of life in the modern age.

Organic farming not only includes policies, laws and measures on industrial, agricultural and urban management but also philosophies and moral principles to ensure a stable balance, the eternality of the ecosystem and life on planet Earth. In order for organic farming to be practised, the first responsibility of the government is to introduce a policy to supervise the use of chemicals; preserve and promote biodiversity; return clean water, soil and air to agriculture; and forcing producers of chemicals to pay higher taxes.
However, organic farming is not a conventional form of agriculture. It needs rapid access to new varieties and the world’s latest agricultural technology to phase out toxic chemicals.

A choice in line with traditional values

For Vietnam, organic agricultural development will not be separated from the essence of traditional agriculture and gastronomy. Vietnamese-American chef Duong Huy Khai won the gold prize at the International Beijing Culinary Competition and received a star on Cordon Bleu Boulevard, a Hollywood-style walk of fame for chefs in Los Angeles. Former US President Bill Clinton and his wife tried Vietnamese pho twice. And recently President Barrack Obama also did not miss the chance to taste Hanoi’s bun cha, noodles served with grilled pork. American chef Anthony Bourdain also took the occasion of President Obama’s visit to Vietnam to promote the country’s cuisine on the US television network CNN.

A foreign professor once said that Vietnam’s tourism could grow several times thanks to the country’s unique dishes and held that Vietnamese food is the healthiest in the world. The Vietnamese not only offer world-leading dishes but also great hospitality, a vivid culture and a relaxed atmosphere.

Currently a number of international organisations are paying more attention to Vietnamese food. They have institutes and labs studying fish sauce, soy sauce, pho and other features of Vietnam’s culinary culture. Perhaps in the near future, pho, bun cha and fish sauce made in the US, Europe and Japan will be tastier, more nutritional, cleaner and safer than Vietnamese-made products, so if domestic farmers and entrepreneurs remain in a weak position both in terms of knowledge and competitiveness, Vietnamese cultural values and economic opportunities will be severely reduced.

Opportunity to get rich

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the US organic farming market saw a steady growth rate of 10% in the ten years from 2001 to 2011, with value growing from US$11.5 billion in 2004 to US$37 billion in 2015. Fruit and vegetables are the most consumed products. More than half of American households said they bought more organic products this year in comparison to last year.

Across the world, there are over 25,000 large enterprises operating in organic farming in 120 countries. Nowhere else has seen faster growth of the middle class and wealthy populace than in Asia, especially in China, North Asia and the ASEAN. Therefore, the market for organic farming products is wide open.

Situated between the temperate and tropical climate regions, Vietnam is endowed with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, which can be exported to both the warmer south and colder north. In addition, Vietnam’s industry and urban areas are still undeveloped and the environment largely remains clean, therefore, there are ample opportunities for organic farming. Furthermore, farmers in mountainous and midland regions still maintain the tradition of using few chemicals in agricultural production. The question is how to tap into the national strength of producing organic food.

The global fruit and vegetable market is enormous and it is still growing. According to statistics of the United Nations, trade in fruit and vegetable increased from US$90 billion in 2000 to US$218 billion in 2010, accounting for one fifth of the global trade of agricultural products.

Vietnam’s fruit and vegetable exports have also seen phenomenal growth in recent years, likely to reach US$2.5 billion in 2016. Therefore, there are reasons to believe that organic agricultural products, including fruit and vegetables, will become a key export in the near future.

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