Vietnamese consumers suspicious of giant vegetables

Bigger is not always better, at least for several hi-tech vegetable growers in the Central Highlands city of Da Lat in Lam Dong Province. By adapting modern cultivation technology, these farmers have successfully grown giant tomatoes, potatoes, and cabbages that are much larger than average sized vegetables. But they are struggling to find buyers for their produce as most consumers associate abnormally large fruits and vegetables with China, not Da Lat, known nationwide for its fresh, clean, and safe vegetables.

Such a misconception stems from the fact that a wide variety of Chinese produce like ginger, garlic, cabbage, potatoes, and carrots are available in Vietnam in larger sizes than locally grown vegetables, while many cases regarding their poor quality and toxicity have been reported over the last few years. “Many consumers insist that locally grown produce must be of normal size,” some traders said, describing how their giant fruits were rejected by customers.

Many vegetable distributors said they have also been forced to return the fruits and vegetables to the farmers after customers accused them of selling Chinese products.
The rejected vegetables are Beef tomatoes, originating from the Netherlands, which weigh around 0.5kg each; cabbage weighing 3kg each; and potatoes that weigh 1kg per 3 tubers.

Consumers’ suspicions have created a paradox for Da Lat produce: the giant products that are grown under standardized methods and modern technology are sold at lower prices than those that are immaturely harvested and of poorer quality.

Pham Thi Thu Cuc, a tomato grower in the province’s Lac Duong District, said the investment for one hectare of Beef tomatoes is five times more than for normal tomatoes, but she could only break even when selling to other places under the Da Lat brand name. “I had to sell the high quality tomatoes at a cheap price, while those of lower quality, which account for only 20 percent of the total yield, sold for a lot more,” Cuc said.

Nguyen Cong Thua, general director of a vegetable growing cooperative in Da Lat, said he had to sell four tons of giant potatoes and cabbage at a loss after distributors returned them following the misconception by consumers that they were Chinese-grown.

Le Cong Thon, a farmer in Lam Dong’s Duc Trong District, had to adjust his modern technique so that it would produce smaller tomatoes to ensure sales in Da Lat, which will then be transported to other provinces and cities. “I’d love to make bigger tomatoes but it is not simple because consumers are still unable to tell high-quality vegetables from Chinese produce,” Thon lamented.


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