Hoa Binh: Supporting Tan Dong Red Pomelo Cooperative to apply PGS certification to add product value
11:50 - 18/02/2022
In the North of Vietnam where most of the poorest ethnic minorities living, monoculture cultivation without protection measures has led to soil degradation, reducing crop yields and increasing investment costs in crop production. 
Training on organic red pomelo production for Tan Dong coop members

For instance, small family farms spend almost 40 percent of their value of production for agricultural inputs. Most farmers have not received training in production, but only practice production according to the experience of generations in their families. Therefore, access to agro-ecology and improvement of farming methods to suit production practices in the context of climate change is limited.

In that context, small-scale farmers of Tan Dong pomelo cooperative group in Tan Lac district - Hoa Binh province also have faced many difficulties in production and consumption of the products. The farmers only produce and sell the indigenous pomelos they have without a market orientation. However, due to the lack of techniques for growing and caring for pomelos as well as the lack of linkages in production, the productivity and value of the products was low and it was difficult for farmers to consume.

The cooperative group had participated in Tan Lac Participatory Guarantee System (PGS), but before 2019, the activities of Tan Lac PGS seem to be inactive. The members of the cooperative group focused on growing pomelo, many households of the cooperative no longer cultivate according to organic methods.

With the support of Forests and Farms Facility (FFF) and the companionship of Farmers' Union at all levels, they realize that closely linking together and finding solutions to promote the effectiveness of the PGS brand for their products is the main task to help solve difficulties and seize opportunities to develop production - business.

After participating in the FFF program, the Tan Dong pomelo cooperative group was able to participate in courses on market analysis and development, and has achieved initial success. They have explored market needs; made business plans, and started production based on 5 groups of sustainable factors (will be mentioned in detail in chapter 3); management and development of cooperatives; Risk management, and business incubation. Through roundtable meetings; focus group discussions; market connection sessions, local authorities at all levels, and other stakeholders have participated more actively and paid more attention to Tan Lac PGS. As a result, the Tan Lac PGS Coordinating Committee has been consolidated and reactivated. Many groups of farmers who previously stopped organic farming have come back to organic farming.

In 2019, Tan Dong organic pomelos and agricultural services cooperative group had developed into a cooperative and had been granted a certificate of Tan Lac organic pomelo products with PGS certification in 2020.

Currently, members of Tan Dong Cooperative have diversified products under pomelo trees. This makes farming more sustainable and earns more income to contribute to the efficient conversion of large timber forests. By joining PGS Tan Lac network and using PGS Tan Lac brand to promote their products, the value of the cooperative's products is raised; a lot of customers in Hanoi and neighbouring provinces know about organic pomelo products.

From 2020 to 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic situation generally affects product consumption. Weather conditions also affect the ability to set fruit on citrus trees in the northern region. But thanks to the Tan Lac PGS organic certification for the product, the cooperative's pomelo products are identified by consumers as organic pomelo products with a clear traceability stamp.

Thanks to diversification, weather risk has been reduced, the members of the cooperative still have products to supply to the market and sell at a higher price (average selling price 20.000 VNĐ) than other local red pomelo products (average selling price 15.000 VNĐ). Currently, the members of the cooperative are experimenting with intercropping medicinal plants under the pomelo canopy, such as basil, ginger, lemongrass and some legumes and vegetables, in order to better control pests and weeds; at the same time diversifying income sources. 

Agriculture is an important industry in Vietnam. Even so, 89% of households are smallholder farmers, the average size of a smallholder is 0.32 hectares. And, small farms are often rendered less efficient by the fragmented nature of their landholdings.
Small-scale farmers have faced many difficulties. Challenges related to production and trading of agro-forestry products such as small and fragmented land; lack of market information; limited market access; input prices increased rapidly; lack of knowledge on sustainable farming in agriculture; transportation costs; affected by climate change; difficulty accessing financial resources.

Pham Thang - Translated by Pham Thang
Nguồn: VNFU Portal
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