How growing high-quality vegetables increased farmers’ income by 150%

An Australian-funded project with the support of Fresh Studio is helping farmers in Vietnam increase their income by supplying high-quality, certified-safe vegetables to retail stores and urban consumers in Hanoi.

Using a value chain model developed as part of the ACIAR – AHR project team, farmers in the Moc Chau region of North Western Vietnam are now producing certified-safe vegetables for urban consumers in northern Vietnam. Through the project effective direct trading relationships and two-way communication between the farmers, the supermarkets and specialty safe vegetable stores in Hanoi have been established. Direct marketing to Hanoi represents a completely new approach and market for local farmers and it’s showing clear economic benefits. In 2015, 68 project farmers (71% female and 10% H’Mong) in the Moc Chau villages of Tu Nhien, Ta Niet and An Thai, produced about 800 tonnes of certified-safe vegetables on 22 hectares of land.

Participating farmers from the Tu Nhien village in Moc Chau earned an average net income of 300 million VND ($18,000) per ha in 2015. This compares with an average net household income of 120 million VND ($7,560) per ha for non-project vegetable farmers in the village, which is an increase of 150% in net income.

The leader of 38 farmers in the Tu Nhien village, Ms Luyen said:
Farmers who are working in the new value chain are no longer poor, they do not have to borrow money to grow their next crop. Many of the farmers have been able to improve their houses, and can more easily afford to send their children to school”.

Ms Luyen from Tu Nhien village and Ms Vu Thi Phuong Thanh from Fresh Studio are justifiably proud of the premium strawberries now grown in Tu Nhien village.

In the neighbouring project village of Van Ho, H’Mong farmers have been producing vegetables for only one season, yet they have already recorded a net income from vegetables of 116 million VND ($7,300) per ha per year, an increase of 480% over the 20 million VND per ha they can earn from rice. Alternative land uses such as growing maize or rice return a net income to the farmer of about 20 million VND ($1260) per ha per year, only 7% of the income they could make from accredited-safe vegetables.

Ms Luyen has been able to buy two trucks for sending high-quality vegetables from Moc Chau to Hanoi in good condition. She has also built a covered packing area and a separate crop receival area where local farmers can bring their produce for grading and packing before it is sent to retailers such as FiviMart, Metro and Biggreen in Hanoi, on the night it arrives.

Ms Luyen, leader of the Tu Nhien village supplying high-quality vegetables from Moc Chau to Hanoi tends a crop of tomatoes in her new greenhouse.
Project team members Ms Hang and Dr Pham Thi Sen from the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (NOMAFSI), and Ms Nguyen Thị Sau from the Fruits and Vegetables Research Institute (FAVRI).
Mr Bùi Văn Tùng and Ms Nguyễn Thị Quỳnh Chang from the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (NOMAFSI) inspecting a cabbage crop in Van Ho.
Mrs Luyen, leader of the Tu Nhien village with one the trucks she bought to transport vegetables from Moc Chau to Hanoi.


PhD defense: Food safety concerns and shopping for daily vegetables in modernizing Vietnam

PhD candidateSCO (Sigrid) Wertheim-Heck G (Gert) Spaargaren 
Co-promoter SR (Sietze) Vellema 
Wageningen UR, Environmental Policy, Wageningen School of Social Sciences (WASS)
DateFriday 20 November 2015
Time13:30 to 15:00
VenueAuditorium, building number 362
Generaal Foulkesweg 1 362
6703 BG Wageningen
0317 – 483592

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Food safety concerns do not drive Vietnamese consumers towards supermarkets yet

Vietnam is one of the world’s largest growth economies. To meet the growing demand for fresh vegetables at declining farmland acreage cultivation methods have intensified with an increase in the often inappropriate application of agricultural inputs. Food safety scandals are widely covered by the public media and 95% of the consumers is heavily perturbed by the safety of the vegetables they consume on a daily basis.

To improve food safety and to restore trust among consumers, authorities in Vietnam stimulate the development of western style supermarkets while reducing traditional (street-) market vending. The government expects supermarkets, which maintain strict food safety management systems and food hygiene standards, to provide a suitable alternative for the less controlled and unhygienic street- and market vending. Policies are designed to influence behavior based on the idea that food safety concerns drive consumers away from traditional markets towards supermarkets. However, only 2% off the vegetables is being purchased in supermarkets. The research reveals how supermarkets do not necessarily fit in the routine organization of the every day lives of different groups of consumers. Some consumers, living in local communities with strong social cohesion, take their time and purchase their vegetables while ‘walking and talking’ in their ‘own’ market. Other, more time constrained consumers, prefer ‘shopping without stopping’, purchasing their vegetables seated on their motorbike while keeping the engine running.

The research shows in what way the different daily shopping practices prevalent in Vietnam are embedded within the wider range of every day life activities and social interdependencies, and how these have evolved over time. Vietnamese consumers appear creative and skilled in coping with food safety risks. They importantly rely on their own practical know-how in discerning safe vegetables, while attaching less importance to anonymous and objective assurance systems and certificates known from supermarkets and controlled chains. This study shows that western models are not readily applicable within the Asian context and thus warns against making the much needed food safety policies dependent on a single, ideal-typical (supermarket) model.

Food safety in everyday life: Shopping for vegetables in a rural city in Vietnam

Sigrid Wertheim-Heck, Gert Spaargaren and Sietze Vellema conducted a research with the aim to investigate how Vietnamese citizens in their everyday lives are confronting the health risks and other side effects related to the consumption of fresh vegetables.

Concerns about food safety influence the way in which Vietnamese consumers confront the question of where, how and from whom they buy their fresh vegetables. In this paper we analyze in what manner and to what extent existing shopping practices inhibit the adoption of modern retail based food safety strategies. Using a social practices theory based approach; we analyze in detail the sales practices of sellers and the purchasing practices of consumers in a Vietnamese provincial city.

This study reveals how both sellers and buyers in wet-markets, Asian style fresh food markets, apply different sets of skills and knowledge, based on locality, personal contacts and private judgment, to match supply and demand in the context of food safety threats. Within the everyday practice of shopping for vegetables, trust is shown to be continuously reproduced along pre-given lines.

Consumers do not easily look outside or move beyond their existing routines even when food safety concerns would urge them to do so. From these findings we conclude that in situations where wet-markets serve as the dominant channel for distributing and purchasing fresh food, the efficacy of government and retail induced food safety strategies depends on their articulation within existing food purchasing routines of Vietnamese consumers.

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Moc Chau vegetables gaining a strong foothold in Hanoi market

Over the past summer, vegetable production in the three farmer groups in Moc Chau supported by the project “Improved market engagement for counter-seasonal vegetable producers in North West Vietnam” has improved the quality and safety of vegetables for Hanoi consumers.

The quality of vegetables including tomatoes, beans and cabbage sold by Moc Chau farmers to retailers in Hanoi has tripled from 60 tons last year to nearly 180 tons this year.

43 farmers form 3 villages have increased their production area form just 4 hectares last year to 18 hectares this season and diversified their assortment of crops to improve their overall market offer.

Farmers also made investments in their farms of which the adoption of basic net-covered greenhouses is the most significant. After returning from a study trip to Da Lat this year, they expanded from just 3 net houses last year to 9 this year. This investment will enable farmers to grown higher value crops such as lettuces and broccoli during the lowland off season.


^ Moc Chau farmers putting up basic protective structures

Farmers in Moc Chau have been strongly supported by agronomists from the Northern Mountainous Agriculture and Forestry Science Institute (NOMAFSI), consulting firm Fresh Studio and Hanoi Agricultural University. These groups worked together offering technical support, organizing field days and market feedback sessions, and training farmers in record keeping and food safety regulations of Safe Vegetable Certification, VietGAP and METRO Requirement.

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Source: ACIAR in Vietnam magazine

Publication date: January 2014

This development is a result of the collaboration with project:

Creation of a value chain for vegetables in North Vietnam

Marion Klaver: Social media and how consumers cope with uncertainties of safe vegetables

HANOI – During my Msc Mangement Economics and Consumers studies at Wageningen University I was given the beautiful chance to be part of the Fresh Studio team in Hanoi as an intern.

Choice for Fresh Studio

Having been abroad only within the European borders, I was looking for an internship outside Europe. From within my network, I heard about Fresh Studio in Vietnam. After reading about the company, the contact was quickly made. Within six months I set foot on Vietnamese soil, a choice which I will never regret. Fresh Studio is a very inspiring company, there is an incredible synergy between creativity, well-considered solutions, and the way diverse disciplines work together.

Internship / thesis 

Throughout this five month period I conducted a study about the role social media plays on how Vietnamese consumers cope with perceived uncertainties on safety of vegetables in Hanoi.
The research focused on the following three main questions:

1. In what way do online social networks play a role in the demand for safety of vegetables by Vietnamese consumers?

2. Which alternative information coping strategies may be used with regard to safety of vegetables in Vietnam?

3. What is the impact of online social networks on other coping strategies with regard to information about safe vegetables in Vietnam.

In order to answer the research questions, 1400 surveys with Vietnamese consumers were carried out at shops which claim to sell safe vegetables. This research has resulted in a Msc thesis for Wageningen University. 

Next to my own project, I had the opportunity to work together with colleagues on different marketing and business development projects. Amongst these, two projects carried out in Hanoi, one a safe vegetable retail census and the other a vegetables project with the Dutch school. All projects have challenged me to move away from the comfort of my study books and theories to put my skills into practice.


Doing an internship overseas involves a bit of a culture shock. Not only did I had to get used to the culture of the country (e.g. bargaining in every shop, crowded streets with motorbikes) but even more I had to adapt to a different culture of working. For example my colleagues saw me as their friend instead of as their colleague. So, after work I did spend a lot of time with them at street canteens and bars. They also showed me many places in Hanoi and took me on motorbike road trips to the North of Vietnam. Seeing many places in Vietnam and also Cambodia, I can say I have explored a bit of the way of living and working in a South East Asian country.

Being abroad offers a fantastic opportunity to broaden your horizon; you will experience a process of development that will make you a better and open-minded person. For me, it was an experience that I am sure I will remember for the rest of my life.Also interesting to read: