My health coaching clients often ask where to find clean, organic vegetables Ho Chi Minh.
Although Saigon, and in general Vietnam, is a great place to find less processed foods compared to all the other countries, organic certifications are not available yet in Vietnam and local certifications do not carry the same high standards as they do in the western countries so the organic produce quests become a bit harder.
The top things to worry about when purchasing organic foods, is the type of certification, their bug protein policy and their proximity with other farms.
After almost 2 years of research in Saigon, find here below my favourite places to get produce.
Well, surely, when you talk about organic produce in Vietnam, the name of Dr. Nguyen Ba Hung, immediately comes out. I had the HUGE honour to met him at his farm in Da Lat during a holiday in 2014; I remember skipping a night out to be able to wake up and visit his farm, and I am so glad I did. His farm, that produces vegetables and herbs mainly for the Organik shop in D2 is located a few km from all the other non-organic farms, which is exceptional, surrounded by forests and based on 2 levels.
The first one at top with the washing and processing center and the lower one, with the water spa and all the greenhouses; you can see pictures and more details here but if you are around Dalat, make sure to take advantage of their free tour!
Although they are working hard to expand the variety of their products, you cannot force nature, so th farm, in addition to their organically grown and european certified vegetables, also rely on GAP and Selected products from neighbour farmers. When you visit their shop or their website, make sure to learn the difference between their 3 types of products:
‘Organik’s organic certification is European and has been obtained after proper sampling, testing and monitoring soil, water and produce for at least 3 years before certification and renewed every year provided standards are met‘, Clara Guzman, Director of Operation stated. They also obtained HACCP certification (Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Point, refers to a system you must put in place to ensure the food you produce is safe) for their processing area that conforms to HACCP standard, also checked and renewed every 3 years.
Organik’s selected products are based on conventional farming. The difference is that they supplier farmers are gearing towards organic so no additional chemical inputs are given to the farms but residues and drifts can be found.
G.A.P., Good Agricultural Practices are voluntary audits that verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored as safely as possible to minimise risks of microbial food safety hazards. International GAP and Vietnamese GAP are similar. The difference is just the origin of certification.
In addition to their store in 8 Thao Dien, D2 and online ordering (very reliable!), products are available also at 100% Alimentation Générale de Qualité – Saigon, Annam locations, Organic Market in d7. Moreover, some hotels and restaurants in Hcmc, Hanoi, Danang, Nha trang, and Mui ne are now using their produce as well.
A underestimated organic shop is Organica; their shops are small but have some great products that are difficult to find elsewhere, like liquid stevia. They have just celebrated the obtainment of their European organic certification. When I asked more information about their farm, this is what Mr. Nhut Le told us:
‘Our farm is a certified organic farm with the size of 2 hectare in Long Thanh, Dong Nai. We grow tropical vegetables mostly there, and also a few kind of traditional herb. It took us almost three years to fully developed this farm and get it certified. In November 2015, we organised the homely press conference to share our little achievement with the public (photo farm here / press conference).
Besides Dong Nai farm, we also develop a few family farms in Lam Dong for growing temperate vegetables, in Quang Ninh for growing all kind of bean and preserving the local varieties.
About our distribution system, we own two store in HCMC (130 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Ward 6, District 3 & 54 Hoang Van Thu, Ward 9, District Phu Nhuan) and currently plan on opening more store in HCMC, Da Nang & Hanoi in 2016.‘
When I ask about requirement for the certification, I was explained that the first requirement to get certified organic is that you have to make sure the surroundings, the land and the water are being accepted by the representative of the certifier, which in this case is Control Union and since their land was left out for more than a decade and completely isolated from the conventional area, they have been able to obtained it quite fast.
About the pest control, Mr. Nhut told me that to avoid the bugs, they use the technique of crop rotation, soil preparation and building net house. It was very difficult when they first start but after 3 years, the land become a lot more nutritious and the eco-system has developed to the stage where the beneficial bugs support and help them to get rid of the harmful insect in a very natural way.
3) 5th Element store located at SC VivoCity in D7, HCMC
A relatively new neighbourhood store, 5th Element has been set up with a mission to provide Safe and Healthy Foods at affordable pricing to consumers. They have alreadty obtained USDA and EU Organic Certifications certified by the Control Union.
When I interview K.C, Singaporean founder and owner, he told me that their focuses are:
– Propitiatory Effective Micro Organism and Composts
– Growing of Chemical Free Produce in an Control Environment
– Post Harvest Processing Platform
– Cold Chain logistic direct to costumers at their 5th Element store located at Ground Floor, unit 01-01 and 01-02, SC VivoCity , Nguyen Van Linh Boulevard, Quarter 1, Tan Phong Ward, District 7. Store daily at 10:00am.
Their platform and farms are located at Hiep An Township, Đức Trong District, Lam Dong Province along the Lien Khuong-Prenn Highway towards Dalat City.
Their main demo farm is located just adjacent to the Processing Platform and the others are located at Duc Trong District and associated farms are in Dasa and Don Duong District.
Unfortunately, their website AND Facebook page are still under completion, but I highly suggest a visit as the store is also a cafe’ where you can have freshly squeezed organic juices and other treats.
Although not completely organic, these brands provide a higher quality fruits and vegetables than those you will find in the markets.
When I asked for a presentation about the company, I have been explained that MEKOSTAR, a brand of The Fruit Republic, was established by a strong team of Dutch and Vietnamese fresh produce professionals who have worked together for over 10 years in the agriculture sector of Vietnam. Together they developed an innovative contract farming system that includes hundreds of smallholder farmers and established two modern HACCP certified processing facilities in two distinct agro-climatic zones, each with a unique sourcing area: the tropical Mekong Delta and the temperate highlands of Dalat.
The Fruit Republic operates the first temperature controlled pack-house and fresh cut facility in Vietnam. This 4,000 m2 large HACCP-certified packing facility is located in Can Tho, in the heart of the Mekong Delta and is surrounded by more than 350,000 hectares of tropical fruits and vegetables.
Their contract farmers are located within short range of their facility, so that after harvesting, the produce enters the cold chain as fast as possible. Every day this company sources over 100 different products from Dalat, which they supply nationwide to modern retail and professional food service customers through their strong distribution network. In the middle of this 30,000 hectares large highland production area, The Fruit Republic operates a 2,000 m2 large HACCP-certified packing facility. Their success in the export market formed the basis to develop a fresh produce portfolio for the domestic market by applying international quality standards.
As i said, even if not organic, all fruits and vegetables are sourced from GAP certified contract farmers who get support to improve their farm management and to assure they comply with strict international quality standards, so it is worth the purchase especially cause besides a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, special products such as fresh cut fruits are available to satisfy the need of consumers with busy lifestyle.
For more information and products list, you can visit their website. Easily to find in Giant and many other local supermarkets.
A new 5000 square metres isolated farm in Tan Binh District, is being certified for organic produce.
Ms. Diana from Happy Vegi informed me that they have now obtained certificate for the standard of solid, water to produce vegetable (heavy metal, bacteria contamination, etc) but mostly the most important certificate of all, they clearance from more than 300 difference kind of pesticide fungicide which may be used in the process of produce vegetable. These certifications have been appointed by agricultural authority and by Agricultural University of Ho Chi Minh.
This farm business model uses:
NO pesticide and weediside chemicals
NO growth stimulant
NO chemical fertiliser
NO planting on soil and water that are contaminated with agricultural chemical soil and water.
NO reservation of packaging and distribution process
When I asked about what’s their technique to keep bugs away, Ms. Diana kindly informed me that they use many difference methods such as net, vacuuming, nurturing natural useful insects and birds, method to stop the development cycle of harmful insects, and most important is crop rotation.
She has also let me know that unfortunately, currently Vietnam do not have any certified label for organic products yet; that’s why they cannot call themselves organic. It is worth to keep an eye on them
Happy Vegi currently has 11 tropical green vegetable and some veggy fruit; some are water morning glory, amaranth, malabar nightshade, pot-herbs, salad, celery, cabbage, spinach komatsuna, mustard leaf, papaya, loopah.
Niconico products are available at organic market in d7.
I have not been able to retrieve a website nor talk with the owners for the past 2 months. To be honest, the vegetables looks great but I always ask about the organicity of certain products and it seems that the answer is always YES. Then, when I move to another shop where there is certainly no organic products and I see the same brand.