HCMC bans informal trade in fresh food

August 11, 2009
Fruit for sale on bicycles parked on the side of Dien Bien Phu Street in Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City authorities have banned with immediate effect trading in fresh food outside formal retail channels in a bid to improve food safety and tighten control over food trading in the city.

Sales of fresh food, including fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood, outside authorized markets, supermarkets and convenience stores are prohibited, under regulations released to the press on Monday.

There are 238 recognized markets in the city and most of them are surrounded by makeshift shops selling mostly food items. Apart from these shops, a number of spontaneous markets have been set up all around in the city.

All wholesale trading of fresh food products is only allowed at three wholesale markets, including Thu Duc, Hoc Mon and Binh Dien. The regulations ban all shops from selling fresh foods on the streets surrounding the three markets.

“The document aims to put an end to trading in unhygienic food and the illegal occupancy of the streets and sidewalks by many unregistered small traders,” said Truong Trung Viet, deputy director of the municipal Department of Industry and Trade at Monday’s press briefing.

“It is unavoidable. Unregistered shops and stalls have to be removed,” he said.

He said most of the unregistered small traders were poor and aged people and had been unemployed before migrating to the city to sell foods, adding however that they would receive no support for having to stop their business.

“There has been no policy toward unregistered traders occupying streets and sidewalks to sell food,” he said. “The government only protects the rights of legal small traders.”

He proposed that these people should find a place in the markets for their business.

Household business allowed

While the regulations state that fresh food can be sold only in authorized markets, supermarkets and convenience stores, officials from the city’s Department of Industry and Trade Monday confirmed that household businesses can also engage in trading if they meet safety requirements and register with relevant agencies.

Viet said household businesses trading in foods would have to compulsorily take a training course on food safety to continue their operations.

Quach To Dung, deputy director of the Department of Industry and Trade, also reassured that registered household businesses would not be banned from trading in food items as long as they have food safety certification.

She said district authorities would review food trading businesses and make a zoning plan.

However, she said the first step to enforce the regulations would be to encourage unregistered small traders to stop, and stricter measures would be applied later.

How convenient?

Viet said convenience stores are required to meet food safety criteria and obtain certification on food safety from authorized agencies.

The municipal Health Department will verify food safety criteria for retail companies while household shops will be approved by district health agencies, he said.

He said the strict move to remove street and sidewalk fresh food stalls is being carried out together with a plan to develop markets and supermarkets in the city for the 2009-2015 period.

The city authorities have encouraged companies to invest in markets, trading centers and supermarkets, he said.

Viet also said the city has a total of around 500 convenience food stores that meet safety criteria, including the chain stores of Co.op Mart, Phu An Sinh, CP Mart, Shop&Go, 24h, Circle K, Best&Buy and G7 Mart, as well as hundreds of outlets belonging to Vissans and FoocoMart.

More retailers would invest in convenience food stores in HCMC in the near future, he added.

On the streets

Many unregistered food stalls were still operating Monday, the first day of the ban.

Vo Thi Be Ba, a pork trader on the sidewalk of Vu Tung Street in HCMC, said she has been trading there for five years.

She told Thanh Nien she has always moved her stall to the sidewalk in the afternoon after selling in an authorized market in the morning to increase her income.

Ba also said she was not aware of the recent regulations on retailing fresh food items.

Vo Thi Gai, a meat trader at Ba Chieu Market in Binh Thanh District, also said hundreds of meat stalls are set up on the sidewalks of surrounding streets from 5 p.m. every day.

However, she added she was suspicious about the quality of the meat at such stalls.

Many meat stalls were found open Monday on streets near authorized markets in District 9 and Binh Thanh District.

STREETS WITH FOOD-STORE BAN NEAR WHOLESALE MARKETS

Thu Duc District: National Road 1A from Go Dua Intersections to Binh Phuoc Overpass; parts of Go Dua, To Ngoc Van, Provincial Road 43, Ngo Chi Quoc and National Road 13 near the Thu Duc Wholesale Market.

Hoc Mon District: part of Nguyen Thi Soc and National Road 22 near the Hoc Mon Wholesale Market.

Binh Chanh District: part of Nguyen Van Linh, Hoang Dao Thuy and Rach Cat – Ben Luc streets

Reported by Quang Thuan – Dinh Muoi

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