In places like Tien Giang and Dong Thap provinces there are many agricultural cooperatives that comply with VietGap standards and sell their produce to exporters like Vina T&T.
For example, all 28 large dragon fruit farmers in Tien Giang are members of cooperatives which instruct them to use clean farming methods and avoid certain chemicals.
They sell their entire output to export companies and not to traders. They thus have a reliable buyer whereas selling to traders often leaves them at their mercy.
The cooperatives schedule the cultivation and harvest of its members to ensure the harvest is spread throughout the year to ensure supply and thus prices do not fluctuate.
Huynh Van Quyen, a dragon fruit farmer said: “I have been working with the local co-operative and Vina T&T for around five years. I have been learning a lot from other farmers and the cooperative staff, who are very helpful and clear in their instructions. My fruit output, quality and income also saw great improvements.”
Vina T&T and the cooperatives it works with assign area codes for each farmer as required by the US when it imports fruits.
The dragon fruits are also exported to markets like Germany, and since they meet international quality standards, are very well received there.
Since the cooperatives work closely with their farmers, the product quality is consistent throughout the entire province, making it easier to export.
Longan farmers in Dong Thap are also instructed by their cooperative and Vina T&T not to use chemicals to match international standards, which greatly boosts the quality of their fruit.
Le Thanh Loc, a longan farmer in Dong Thap’s Chau Thanh district, said: “Earlier Chau Thanh farmers would use their own individual methods without caring much for clean farming, so our output was not that high and some were even affected by plant diseases. After working with a farming expert, Dr Nguyen Dang Nghia, locals have realised the importance of clean farming and changed their ways.”
Overall, farmers improve quality and output when they join cooperatives and adopt clean farming practices, according to insiders.
In the past they would follow their instincts or simply copy from others, some switching between crops regularly depending on what is popular at the time.
Now more and more farmers around the country have greater awareness and are seeing the big picture, realising the benefits of organised work, clean farming and export.