“Blockchain technology is set to feature strongly at a new Vietnam Food Integrity Centre (FIC), which aims to improve standards in a nation that has been rocked by safety and hygiene scandals in the recent past,” FoodNavigator Asia wrote. OriginTrail is proud to become one of the partners in this newly formed multiple-stakeholder organization, which is on a mission to strengthen food safety, monitoring and surveillance by improving data management and adopting new technologies.
Born Global: Announced in Belfast and Incorporated in Vietnam to Cater to One of the World’s Largest Food Chains
The Food Integrity Center (FIC) was first announced at the Belfast Summit on Global Food Integrity on May 31, 2018. John G. Keogh, internationally recognized strategist and advisor on using standards and technology in supply chains, and recently-appointed Trace Alliance chairman, introduced the FIC and signed a Letter of Intent with the summit’s chairman Prof. Chris Elliott OBE, one of the most respected global thought leaders in food chain integrity. Prof. Elliott and Queen’s University Belfast will take an active role in the FIC with a strategic partnership including knowledge sharing, training/education, and joint-research projects. As Prof. Elliott noted “the Vietnam FIC will become a key part of our global food integrity strategy and a regional base”.
The FIC is significant on a global scale as Vietnam is one of the 15 largest agricultural exporters in the world. The World Bank reports that the country has emerged as one of the world’s leading exporters of agro-food commodities and is among the top five for aquatic products, rice, coffee, tea, cashews, black pepper, rubber, and cassava. According to Trading Economics, Vietnam exports surpassed 21 billion USD in March 2018 alone. In the last few years, Vietnam’s exports have doubled. The country’s main export partners are:
Minh Hieu, who did an extensive overview of agricultural exports of Vietnam, shares some of the most fascinating examples that will help us understand how Vietnam’s food production is significant on a global scale:
- Vegetable and fruit exports reached their highest ever peak of US$3.45 billion in 2017. Most vegetable and fruit exports from Vietnam go to China, the largest importer with more than a 75% market share.
- Vietnam is also the second-largest coffee exporter in the world, behind Brazil, taking up 10.5 percent of global exports of this commodity, including sourcing for big global brands such as Nestle, Kraft Foods and Lavazza.
- Vietnam has been the number one cashew exporter for the past 12 years, processing more than 50 percent of the world’s output.
Despite these impressive statistics, the World Bank points out that food safety should be addressed very seriously In Vietnam: “Food safety is of a great concern to both consumers and policymakers and frequently appears in media … and in policy discussions. This is the result of repeated episodes of adulterated and unsafe food.“ The country suffered several export restrictions due to insufficient food safety testing (reports of excessive pesticide residues, overuse of antibiotics and multiple instances of food contamination). The Vietnamese National Strategy for Food Safety has five major objectives: improve knowledge and practice on food safety, strengthen the capacity of the food safety management system, significantly improve food safety at facilities for producing and procession the food, significantly improve food safety at retail and effectively acute food position. The FIC will operate as a public-private partnership, and, through donor funding, it aims to build capacity and improve the integrity of Vietnam’s food chain. A key goal is to address as many as 14 out of the 21 recommendations made by The World Bank in a recent report on Vietnam’s food safety risk management.
OriginTrail Will Be the Go-To Data Exchange Tech Solution for International FIC Members
Accordingly to FoodNavigator Asia, the new center will seek to strengthen national food safety monitoring and surveillance and improve data management. With one of its main focus areas being traceability, the center will help industry players to develop a “farm-to-fork” food supply chain approach which aligns with GS1 Vietnam under the Ministry of Science and Technology. Knowledge and awareness of traceability and regulators compliance will be enhanced, along with a greater focus on communication, interoperability, applying new technologies and industry standards. The centre will be located in the same building as the Hoan Vu analytical laboratory initially and has started to cater to startups and SMEs who struggle with know-how and are dependent on middlemen or intermediaries to go to market. The FIC will assist with new product development, branding, packaging and the verification of credence claims like “pesticide-free” or “organic.” By bringing together various international stakeholders, the FIC will enhance safety, credibility, accountability, transparency and trust to food supply chains. An image below outlines the main areas of the FIC’s work.
OriginTrail will be the foundational technology solution for FIC members and exclusively implemented by TMA Solutions in Vietnam, FIC’s development partner. TMA is an international technology company with over 2000 software developers, with headquarters in Vietnam and offices in Canada, United States, Ireland, Australia. Other partners and organizations committed to participating include:
- Hoan Vu Analytical Laboratory — OriginTrail’s existing partner: an interesting fact is that the Huan Vu laboratory already tests 80–90% of all Vietnamese honey before it is exported;
- Grocery Manufacturers Association Science and Education Foundation (GMA SEF), based in Washington;
- GS1 Vietnam, the not-for-profit supply chain standards body under Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST);
- Bluewave Advisory and Shantalla Inc will manage an advisory sector for overseas clients who want to source in Vietnam by helping them find the best products and assisting in setting up their supply chains;
- Swiss-based traceability and anti-counterfeit solution INEXTO will provide a platform for FIC clients.
Chairman of the Trace Alliance and the Food Integrity Center John G. Keogh commented on the importance and value added by OriginTrail’s engagement in FIC as the go-to data exchange based on a blockchain technology solution: “This is a very exciting opportunity for the growth of Trace Alliance and rapid adoption of the OriginTrail protocol. We plan to lay the fabric of data governance and interoperability across Vietnam and link entrepreneurs, small business and large businesses to the protocol. This will help to improve the overall integrity of Vietnamese exports.”
The FIC entered a 90-day strategic planning period with co-founders and potential donors from the US, Canada, Europe and Asia. They will launch their website and publish initial draft plans in July. Activities are already fully underway, and they already have Vietnamese and international entrepreneurs engaged in their innovation and incubation pipeline. They include a chicken farmer, an innovative fish feed startup from Europe, an expanding fish farm and several others. Furthermore, the FIC is engaged in a pilot program at Hoan Vu (Saigon) and Source Certain (Perth) to implement GS1 standards and blockchain technologies from OriginTrail into the forensic laboratories — aimed at improving the overall integrity of the Vietnamese food chain. OriginTrail is excited to cooperate with the FIC and thanks all its members who trust us to integrate our protocol to connect their products with the blockchain. Trace on, Food Integrity Center!
Resources for Further Reading
- Việt, T. 2016. Transforming Vietnam’s Agriculture Sector Will Stimulate Higher Growth. Worldbank.org http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2016/09/27/transforming-vietnams-agriculture-sector-will-stimulate-higher-growth
- Wan, L. 2018. New Vietnam food centre seeks to improve traceability, safety and standards in wake of recent scandals. Food Navigator Asia. https://www.foodnavigator-asia.com/Article/2018/06/04/New-Vietnam-food-centre-seeks-to-improve-traceability-safety-and-standards-in-wake-of-recent-scandals
- Minh Hieu, T. T. n.a.. Vietnam’s food exports: High output, low value. City Pass Guide. https://www.citypassguide.com/en/travel/vietnam/food/blog/vietnams-food-exports-high-output-low-value
- World Bank. 2017. Food safety risk management in Vietnam: Challenges and opportunities. Technical working paper. Hanoi, Vietnam: World Bank.
- World Bank. 2017. Vietnam food safety risks management: Challenges and Opportunities — policy note (English). Washington, D.C.: World Bank Group. http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/157501490724011125/Vietnam-food-safety-risks-management-challenges-and-opportunities-policy-note
- Vietnam Exports. 2018. Trading exports 1990–2018 https://tradingeconomics.com/vietnam/exports