Just like WinMart supermarkets, WinMart+ convenience stores, and Tiki Ngon, an arm of the ecommerce platform Tiki, 3 Sach food stores were found with vegetables bought from wholesale markets labeled with Vietnamese Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) tags.
The suppliers of these products to 3 Sach were Hugofarm Clean Agricultural Product Co. Ltd., headquartered in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, and Trinh Nhi Agricultural Products Co. Ltd., the food chain confirmed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday.
Trinh Nhi allegedly provided fake VietGAP vegetables to WinMart supermarkets and WinMart+ convenience stores as well.
VietGap refers to the application of production methods to turn out clean and safe fruits and vegetables.
Following a Tuoi Tre exposé, 3 Sach Food Co. Ltd. decided to take all products of HugoFarm and Trinh Nhi off its shelves and stop the purchase of vegetables from these two suppliers.
3 Sach also requested the two suppliers to explain the information as they seriously violated a contract with 3 Sach, damaging customers’ confidence and the 3 Sach brand.
“3 Sach, as a provider of products to consumers, would like to express our deepest apology to our customers who have trusted and supported us in the past,” a communications representative of 3 Sach said.
The company also confirmed their coordinatination with investigators to clarify the suppliers’ fraudulent acts and contact with customers who bought vegetables from the two suppliers at 3 Sach to offer some compensation.
|Hugofarm Clean Agricultural Product Co. Ltd. in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City allegedly buys vegetables at Hoc Mon wholesale market and places VietGAP tags on them. Photo: Thao Thuong / Tuoi Tre|
The representative said the company is reviewing all remaining suppliers and will enhance the inspection of suppliers and products on its shelves.
It is committed to checking other suppliers’ products to prevent similar cases.
“This is a hard lesson for us. 3 Sach will learn from our mistakes and do better in the future,” the 3 Sach representative told Tuoi Tre.
Vegetables from wholesale markets don new coat
At Hugofarm, vegetables are purchased daily from wholesale markets, labeled as safe products meeting VietGAP standards, and provided them to supermarkets and convenience stores.
Its workers just discarded withered, wormy, and ugly leaves and bulbs, packed the remainder, and put VietGAP or clean vegetable labels on them to have ‘clean’ vegetables.
In early August, Tuoi Tre reporters posed as job-seekers at Hugofarm, headquartered at 21 Tang Bat Ho Street, Ward 11, Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City.
The undercover reporters were recruited as agricultural product processors with a monthly salary of VND3 million (US$126.5) and worked from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm, even on Saturdays and Sundays.
On its website, Hugofarm introduces itself as a supplier of fresh, green, clean, and safe food to families, saying it does not buy products through any middleman.
The company also says that it plants vegetables itself with a closed system, has a farm in the southern province of Tien Giang, and connects with prestigious farms in Da Lat City, about 300km from Ho Chi Minh City, which grow organic vegetables and have insurance for their products.
The reporters worked at a four-story house measuring some seven square meters. T. instructed them to get rid of withered, wormy, and bruised leaves.
On a table, nearly 100 bunches of Malabar spinach, which they said were transported from Tien Giang, needed processing.
While packing malabar spinach into plastic bags and labeling them with tags, T. said hundreds of kilograms of vegetables were packed per day to be supplied to supermarkets and food stores in apartment buildings.
“This malabar spinach volume is not enough. Some more will be bought from Hoc Mon wholesale market in the district of the same name,” T. said.
Hang, another Hugofarm employee, later instructed the reporters on how to pack coriander. Some bags of coriander were stuck with round labels and barcode labels, while tags with ‘standard VietGAP’ words were placed on some others.
Being asked why they used two different labels, Hang explained that it depended on buyers’ requirements.
Round labels also have two kinds with green and white backgrounds. They include the ‘3S, 3SACH FOOD, Fresh & Healthy; from Farm to Table’ phrases and 3 Sach food fan page ‘3 Sach Food Gourmet Market.’
|After being stuck with VietGAP tags, vegetables have their prices surging. Photo: Thao Thuong / Tuoi Tre|
Information is sufficient to gain customers’ confidence, including the website www.3sachfood.vn and hotline 1800 6034.
Barcode labels also have the product names, weight and the supplier—Hugofarm Clean Agricultural Product Co. Ltd.
The Tuoi Tre reporters later followed Hugofarm employees to Hoc Mon wholesale market to witness the purchase of vegetables.
At 6:20 pm on August 16, two women came to the market to buy greens.
They transported dozens of bags of vegetables to 21 Tang Bat Ho Street in Ho Chi Minh City at 9:05 pm.
As soon as they returned, many people immediately helped them unload products.
Each agricultural product processing room had four workers, with two cleaning vegetables and discarding withered and wormy leaves, and two others putting the remaining into plastic bags and sticking labels containing a producer address and the VietGAP logo.
Bunches of malabar spinach, herbs, water morning glory, amaranth, and choy sum weighing 500, 300, and 50 grams each were piled up.
The logo labeled on choy sum bags includes the sentence “Hugofarm is a closed livestock and cultivation farm using organic fertilizers, not plant growth stimulants and preservatives, and brings products directly from farms to consumers.”
In addition, the packaging dates on the labels were one day later than the actual packaging dates.
On August 17, the two female employees of Hugofarm repeated their job of buying vegetables from Hoc Mon wholesale market.
Bogus VietGAP vegetables on sale at food stores
After keeping a close watch on the operation of Hugofarm and following delivery drivers for many days, the Tuoi Tre reporters knew the destinations of the greens and the delivery time.
At about 7:00 am on August 12, a man rode a motorbike to deliver the vegetables to a 3 Sach Food Gourmet Market store on Tran Nao Street in An Khanh Ward, Thu Duc City, a district-level unit of Ho Chi Minh City.
He unhurriedly carried bags of vegetables inside the store under the witness of many consumers. The product handover took nearly 20 minutes.
He later traveled to another 3 Sach Food Gourmet Market store in The Sun Avenue apartment building complex on Mai Chi Tho Boulevard in Thu Duc City to hand over the remaining vegetables.
|Baskets of vegetables bought from Hoc Mon wholesale market are allegedly turned into ‘safe’ greens by Hugofarm for supplying to stores and supermarkets. Photo: T. Thuong / Tuoi Tre|
The products with the logos of Hugofarm and VietGAP were put on the shelves of 3 Sach food stores with much higher prices than those at traditional markets.
A resident of the apartment building, Vu Dinh Kien, said he often bought vegetables at the 3 Sach food store as it was near and vegetables there had labels, were said to meet VietGAP standards, and were fresh.
Although they were more expensive than those in wet markets, they were supposed to be clean, Kien added.
“If they are fake VietGAP vegetables and suppliers take advantage of consumers’ confidence to cheat them, I count myself helpless. It may be the same as other food outlets,” Kien said.
After witnessing the process to turn vegetables from wholesale markets into VietGAP products, the Tuoi Tre reporters returned to the vegetable stall at Hoc Mon wholesale market where the two Hugofarm employees had bought vegetables to ask for traceability documents as well as other certificates proving the products’ safety.
However, the stall owner named Hong said she had no VietGAP certificates for her products. No one at the market had such papers.
“Those working in supermarkets might have counterfeited the certificates,” Hong added.
The Tuoi Tre reporters later posed as partners who wanted to buy vegetables for sale in supermarkets and dialed the phone number on the website of Hugofarm. They were guided to meet Tuyen at 21 Tang Bat Ho.
Tuyen asked her staff to print a price list of 92 kinds of vegetables, saying one-third of them met VietGAP standards and were planted in Tien Giang Province.
They were labeled with VietGAP tags, Tuyen noted.
Being asked if the vegetables were not VietGAP products but were stuck with VietGAP labels, Tuyen affirmed that she would take responsibility for the products.
Answering another question about the solutions if the products were detected to contain more pesticide residues than the permitted levels, she said two sides would negotiate to deal with the issue.
An Cuong Wood to list neary 134 mln shares on HOSE
An Cuong Wood-Working, which holds 55% of the market for decorative materials and industrial wood, announced the first six month revenue of VND1,915 billion ($80 million), up 12% and a 17.4% increase in after-tax profit to VND279 billion ($11.7 million).
Since this firm enjoys the benefit of name and brand recognition in the industry, leadership claimed that they are not particularly interested in the low-end category.
With an aim of building 30 more showrooms between 2022 and 2025, the Vietnamese enterprise An Cuong Wood already operates almost 30 showrooms around the country, mostly in Hanoi, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City.
Builders, construction units, and agents account for 69% of the income generated by customers, followed by export customers (15%), consumer customers (5%), and real estate developers like Vingroup (11%). As of June 30, there were 2,962 persons working for the entire firm.
To enhance capacity, the firm is marketing the export market. With a concentration on the US, An Cuong Wood has exported goods to 15 nations.
By 2025, it’s anticipated that exports would account for 15–18% of overall income. The firm aspires to generate $300 million in sales by 2025 through a strategy of consistently growing its product line and finding new markets.
The profit after tax for An Cuong Wood- Working is VND947 billion ($40 million). The business continues to invest an additional VND393 billion ($16.5 million) in the first half of 2022 to acquire 30% of Central Hill Real Estate Company.
The leadership determined that the goal of VND550 billion ($23 million) in profit was realistic and anticipated that it will be exceeded by 10% to 20%. This will be the wood industry’s finest outcome ever.
Vietnamese dong ranked among currencies with lowest depreciation: SBV
Among the countries in the region and worldwide grappling with currency depreciation, the Vietnamese dong is listed in a group with the smallest devaluation, Pham Chi Quang, deputy director of the Monetary Policy Department under the State Bank of Vietnam, told a press briefing late last week.
In the year to date, the dong dropped by nearly 4 percent against the U.S. dollar, much lower than other currencies, said Quang.
After the U.S. Federal Reserve (Fed) hiked interest rates by 75 basis points on September 21, many nations followed suit.
In the past nine months, the Taiwanese dollar, the Japanese yen, the Philippine peso and the euro have lost 13.5 percent, 25 percent, 13.65 percent and 13.49 percent, respectively, against the greenback.
“The Vietnamese dong is one of the currencies reporting the lowest depreciation in the region and the world, at some 4 percent,” Quang stressed.
After the Fed’s move, a number of the central banks of many nations such as Thailand, Norway and Indonesia raised key interest rates to tame inflation.
Dao Minh Tu, deputy governor of the State Bank of Vietnam, said that many countries’ rate hikes are expected to take a toll on Vietnam’s foreign exchange rates.
Following the Fed’s rate spike, the central bank decided to set new interest rate caps on deposits.
The highest rate for savings from one month to fewer than six months is 5 percent per year, up 1 percentage point, taking effect from September 23.
“The central bank will continue to control its currency in a flexible and appropriate manner to stabilize foreign exchange rates and ensure a reasonable and legal supply of foreign currencies for firms and residents,” Tu affirmed.
The central bank’s top mission for the control over monetary policy is curbing inflation and stabilizing the economy, Tu added.
Besides, the banking system will focus on supporting enterprises with their post-COVID-19 recovery, contributing to reaching the full-year target of the country’s economic growth at 6.5 percent set by the National Assembly.
To ease fears over a spike in lending rates after the deposit rate cap hikes, the central bank will continue to maintain interest rate stability, said the representative of the central bank.
Tu also added that lending rates will follow the move of domestic and foreign inflation in a suitable way.
Further, the central bank will continue to encourage credit institutions to cut operating costs to lower lending rates for the government’s priorities, including small and medium enterprises and firms active in agriculture.
“We called on commercial banks for a cost-cutting plan to slash lending rates to share difficulties with customers. This has been implemented well over the past two years, with VND25 trillion ($1.05 billion) in lending rate reduction,” said Tu.
The credit growth target will be kept at 14 percent this year. In the year to date, the nation’s credit has jumped by over 10 percent.
Trade ministry aims to bring Vietnam Rice trademark into high-end markets
Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade is drafting a strategy to increase the country’s direct rice export rate and boost the sale of the Vietnam Rice national brand to high-end markets by 2030.
The trade ministry is making a draft strategy to develop Vietnam’s rice export until 2030, which highlights many solutions for boosting demand through negotiations, entering new markets, and increasing exports with a tariff reduction road map.
By 2025, the proportion of low- and medium-grade white rice will have accounted for no more than 15 percent of the country’s rice exports, while high-grade and fragrant rice, japonica rice, and specialty rice will constitute 40 percent.
Rice with high added value such as nutritious rice, parboiled rice, organic rice, and processed products will make up five percent.
By 2030, the direct export of rice will have generated 60 percent of the country’s rice export turnover, while products under the Vietnam Rice trademark will account for 25 percent.
To realize these goals, Vietnam needs to implement policies related to agricultural land, attract investment, promote mechanization and high technology in production, develop more rice varieties, and effectively use the Vietnam Rice trademark, the trade ministry stated.
Certain requirements in production and processing should be established to make sure that the quality of rice meets standards of the country as well as of demanding markets such as the European Union.
The development strategy also focuses on restructuring the rice industry and agricultural production, as well as providing solutions for the production and control of pesticide residues toward the implementation of clean agricultural production.
In addition, the country will tighten the management of imported rice via non-tariff measures and technical barriers.
Vietnam has grown and exported rice for many years, Nguyen Thanh Phuoc, head of the Sub-Department of Cultivation and Plant Protection in the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang, stated, adding that it is a pity that no rice brand has become the national trademark.
The rice cultivation skills of local farmers have improved, and it is not difficult to produce high-quality rice varieties, Phuoc continued.
In order to have large output and stable quality, export businesses need to cooperate closely with farmers, the official proposed.
Farmers and businesses must play the central roles in boosting the exports of products under the Vietnam Rice brand, said Vo Cong Thuc, head of the food quality management department of Loc Troi Group, a manufacturer and supplier of agricultural products and services.
After noticing the positive signals from the European market, Loc Troi Group has boosted its investment into local farmers to ensure the interests of both sides.
If farmers do not comply with European rice export standards, businesses will suffer losses as they fail to provide high-quality products for their partners.
Farmers’ compliance with international standards of farmers is decisive in producing high-quality rice grains and increasing the value of Vietnam’s rice export in the global market, Thuc remarked.
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