Soc Trang Purple Onion value chain analysis

In Vietnam, the province of Soc Trang is famous for its purple onion. Since a few years, however, it is no longer the onion itself but the onion farmers which are grabbing headlines across the country. The onion sector is in trouble.


Life is difficult for Soc Trang onion farmers at the best of times. Most onion farmers are among the poorest people in the country. Over the last years, their struggle is becoming even more desperate. Increasingly unpredictable rainfall has lowered yields and changing market conditions have created demand uncertainty. Each year thousands of tons of onion remain unsold. Soc Trang province is aware of the difficulties facing the sector and wants to provide support. It is motivated by the importance of purple onion for the province, in particular for the impoverished Khmer ethnic minority. Therefore, they want to implement a support program based on a thorough understanding of the current situation.


Fresh Studio was requested to support Soc Trang province in this process. In the first phase of the project, Fresh Studio will conduct a value chain analysis to critically assess the issues faced by different stakeholders and identify opportunities for improvement. A team of consultants from R&D, Sourcing, Quality Assurance, Business Development and Marketing will interview hundreds of stakeholders in Soc Trang and Ho Chi Minh City. Based on the findings of the value chain analysis, a detailed action plan will be made to develop the purple onion sector. The plan will be presented back to stakeholders from the sector, including input suppliers, farmers, traders, and buyers during a workshop. Based on their feedback, a final proposal will be developed and presented to Soc Trang province.

Expected outcome

There are few magic bullets in the world and it is unrealistic to expect that there exists a quick and easy solution to solve the problems the sector is currently facing. Instead, whatever solution will be identified will require hard work and sustained commitment from all stakeholders. Therefore, a decidedly interactive approach was chosen for this project. Throughout both the analysis and the proposal development phase the public and private sector are actively involved. Expert opinions will be used to trigger discussion and encourage out-of-the-box thinking, but at the end of the day, the only solution that works is a solution supported by all. Once such a solution has been identified, Soc Trang and Fresh Studio look forward to working together on its implementation.

Improving food security and livelihoods in Myanmar

SAPA (Sustainable and Affordable Poultry for All) aims at improving the food security and rural incomes of smallholder poultry and corn farmers in Myanmar through a public private partnership in which several parties are involved, including De Heus, Belgabroed, Fresh Studio, Aeres Group, Myanmar Livestock Federation and Yezin Agriculture University.

Read more in-depth about the SAPA project on the project website: Visit the SAPA website


Myanmar is one of the most resource rich countries in Southeast Asia:

  • A land area and fresh water resources double in size compared to for example Vietnam
  • An estimated population of 60 million people
  • Strategically located between the two enormous markets of China and India
  • Easy access to buoyant markets in the Gulf
  • Diverse topography and eco-systems enable farmers to produce a wide range of cereals, pulses, horticulture, fruits, livestock and fish

Myanmar’s farmers find themselves well-positioned to contest both regional and global agricultural markets. Despite these rich resources, Myanmar’s economy has underperformed over the past fifty years.

In the SAPA project strengths are combined between International companies, knowledge institutions and local NGO’s active in the poultry and corn (value) chain.


The SAPA project offers solutions to improve food security in Myanmar and enhance livelihoods of poultry and corn smallholders in Myanmar, by introducing more productive, profitable and sustainable production systems for poultry and corn production. And at the same time the capacity will be built of both corn and broiler farmers to implement these sustainable production systems. For the demand for poultry this will result in more affordable and reliable access to animal protein in Myanmar. Finally, knowledge capturing and sharing is the backbone of SAPA to promote institutional learning on both micro as macro level.

The project focuses on 3 core themes:

  • Myanmar food security: more affordable and reliable access to higher quality and safer chicken.
  • Sustainable chain solutions: Myanmar farmers have the possibility to choose their own input and output for their broilers. Ownership is created and is based on developed knowledge and experience with different actors in the chain.
  • Inclusive business: the project aims at having impact on low income groups, both employees, producers and entrepreneurs in Myanmar.

Fresh Academy: A practical knowledge and training institute

A practical knowledge and training institute to support the development of the agrifood sector in Vietnam.


Horticulture in Vietnam has been growing fast in the past few decades. While rapid economic and population growth has imposed a high pressure on horticulture production, there is still a large potential for productivity improvement for the domestic market as well as exporting but at the same time the concerns on food safety (overuse and miss use of agrichemicals, health risks for workers and consumers) also demand for effective solutions.

Growing conditions in Vietnam show a wide variation due to different climatic zones and altitudes. For example, Dalat’s high altitude and temperate climate is suitable for greenhouse production of ‘European’ vegetables and flowers whereas in the Red river delta horticultural production is very seasonal due to a huge difference between the very cool winter and hot humid summer. Thus, the Vietnamese horticultural sector requires application of modern technology and knowledge with a dedicated regional scope.

The Vietnamese governmental institutes are not very strong on practical and applied knowledge, especially on protected agriculture sector because their main scope is academic research and education. However, there is an increasing awareness and willingness to promote applied science and technology in regular education and practical training.

The Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of food and agriculture products, thanks to its modern and innovative technology. A number of Dutch companies have actively participated in Vietnamese agrifood sector and some of them include knowledge transfer in their normal scope, but an integrated and coordinated approach is still missing.

Fresh Studio, since long time, has seen the need to structurally invest in applied knowledge development in the Vietnamese agrifood sector. Fresh Studio actually has taken the initiative in stimulating (more) knowledge-to-knowledge cooperation through R&D and consultancy, building knowledge and skills in vegetable, potato and fruit supply chains. A partnership in horticulture between the Netherlands and Vietnam was launched in March 2013 (HortiViN) to pave the way for long term collaboration between the governments, academic institutes and companies in order to support Vietnam to become a major player in horticulture and address the aforementioned challenges.


Taking into account all above issues, the partners in the project decided to establish the ‘Fresh Academy’, a practical knowledge and training institute that supports the development of the Vietnamese agrifood sector towards a sustainable, healthy and upgraded industry, through sharing knowledge and skills in the production-, postharvest- and distribution stages of the supply chain.

The Fresh Academy aims to cover all primary agricultural produce of the whole country on the long run. However, for this initial project, the priority is on vegetables and ornamental products that are grown under protected and controlled environments.

Powering Aquaculture Progress; developing a R&D Aquaculture farm

Together with its projects partners, Fresh Studio is developing a Research & Development Aquaculture farm in Mekong delta. This innovative center is expected to bring the Vietnamese Aquaculture to the next level.


In Vietnam, the aquaculture sector started in the early 1960s with small scale extensive culture systems. The rapid growth of the sector during the last two decades has been a direct result of adapting intensive production practices mostly for exportable species. Vietnam’s aquaculture production increased from aroud 160,000 tons in 1990, to nearly 500,000 tons in 2000. After 2000, due to the development of the pangasius and shrimp industries, the aquaculture production has increased fivefold (just under 2.5 million tons).

Despite this enormous success of the aquaculture sector in Vietnam, there are quite a number of challenges in order to achieve a more sustainable growth of the sector. For example:

  • Reducing negative environmental impacts of farming, and especially water pollution and use of limited natural resources (fish meal)
  • Control diseases outbreak and limit the use of veterinary medicines and chemicals
  • Improve cost efficiency and productivity to be able to be competitive in the global market


Aiming to be major actors in the sector, Fresh Studio and projects partners (private sector and universities) are developing a Research & Development Aquaculture farm in the heart of Mekong Delta. At the start, researches area will be focused on innovations in:

  • Fish nutrition
  • Feed management
  • Farm management Farming methods, including introduction of re-circulation systems

Aiming to be major actor of innovations in the sector, Fresh Studio and project partners (private sector and universities) are developing a Research & Development Aquaculture farm in the heart of Mekong Delta. This farm will be made of over 100 farming units from 200 liters to 2000 square meters. At the start, the area of research will be focused on innovations in:

  • Fish nutrition and feed management
  • New technologies in farming systems, including introduction of re-circulation systems
  • Farm management

To ensure that the developed innovations will be adopted by the final user (the fish farmers), training and extension programs will be implemented, as well as demonstration trials all over the Mekong Delta with leading and influential farmers.

Architecture design of the R&D Aquaculture farm 

Expected outcome

This innovative Research & Development Aquaculture center is expected to bring the Vietnamese Aquaculture to the next level.

Creation of a value chain for vegetables in North Vietnam

Urban consumers in North Vietnam encounter problems buying guaranteed safe vegetables especially during the hot and humid summer period in North Vietnam which starts in April and lasts until September.


Temperatures and humidity are too high in the Red River Delta plains to produce the required range of vegetables and there is limited supply of vegetables from Dalat from April to September. Therefore markets in North Vietnam are flooded with vegetables imported from China. This concerns consumers and government regulators due to questionable food safety standards.

The rapid urbanization in Northern Vietnam combined with consumer demand for high quality and guaranteed safe vegetables, the long distance from Dalat to Hanoi (1,400 km) and the influx of Chinese vegetable imports, provides an opportunity to develop regional supply of safe vegetables for urban markets in North Vietnam.


Since 2010 Fresh Studio has been cooperating with METRO Cash & Carry Vietnam in North Vietnam to:

  • Provide small holder vegetable farmers with a direct linkage to modern trade
  • Diminish the negative environmental impacts of the current unsustainable horticulture production systems
  • Offer urban consumers guaranteed high quality and safe vegetables for a wide range of vegetables in large volumes

To develop year round supply of guaranteed high quality and safe vegetables from North Vietnam, Fresh Studio clustered small holder vegetable farmers in the lowlands of the Red River Delta, as well as the poorer and more remote farmers located in the mountains in the North. Using the climatic advantage of the cooler mountains in North Vietnam, a regional solution has been developed to supplement the vegetable supply from the Red River Delta during the summer period. This resulted in the possibility for METRO and other retailers to source high quality and safe vegetables year round from North Vietnam.


At the end of the project, 6 farmer groups were developed, representing a total of 113 farmers across 3 sourcing areas: Dong Anh, Hai Duong and Moc Chau. All farmer groups achieved government food safety certification and were trained in the METRO Requirement standard. In addition to government certification 46 farmers received METRO Requirement certification. Out of the 36 vegetables selected as project assortment, 26 are now METRO Requirement certified.

Supply chain before intervention

  • Limited cooperation within the chain
  • Limited knowledge exchange between actors

Value chain after intervention

  • Good cooperation within the chain
  • Extensive knowledge exchange between actors

Recent developments in this project:

Potato potential assessment

Our Dutch client, a potato seed and potato trading company, approached Fresh Studio with a view to conducting a feasibility study regarding the production and marketing of high quality Dutch table and processing potatoes in Vietnam.

We researched cultivation potential by testing 15 different potato varieties in Dalat and North Vietnam. Market potential and consumer preference were investigated through market research of current potato sales and consumption, consumer panels, food labs with chefs, sales pilots across modern and traditional outlets, and product test in co-operation with the processing industry.

The research resulted in potato breeds, which grow well across climate zones, and which offer sound market potential. Both professional services and private consumers clearly preferred selections of Dutch high-quality variety above the current offer.