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04

Sep

Featured Partner: Happy Trade

Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

happy-trade_logo

 

Recognizing a Problem

The demand for healthy foods and honest companies is growing in Vietnam. While videos go viral showing the dirty secrets behind food production, consumers are starting to wonder who they can trust to ensure their families are eating healthy and real foods. In comes Happy Trade, a company focused on providing consumers with a chance to connect with local farmers they can trust who use organic and trustworthy farming methods. Miss Hong Le started the company Happy Trade after holding high management roles in FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) companies in the UK and Thailand. She recognized that there were a lot of food issues in Vietnam, especially the overuse of pesticides and other chemicals. She saw a need to both help the farmers and the consumers connect with each other and teach them about the importance of knowing where your produce comes from and how it is grown to ensure what you are putting into your body is healthy. It wasn’t an easy start having to compete with the extremely cheap prices and high production quantity provided in the markets in Vietnam. While mass producers have the ability to overcome the difficulties that come with unpredictable weather and varying demands, for organic farmers these are things that can be extremely detrimental to their business. Being an organic farmer takes a lot of work and dedication, so finding the right partners to work with was a challenge for Miss Hong.

 

Creating a Solution: Happy Trade

Happy Trade is a platform that connects local farmers with consumers providing a variety of produce to choose from. Happy Trade sources the farms to ensure they are using the right practices and even helps farmers to improve their organic practices. The consumers get to choose which farmers they want to buy from given ratings and reviews from other consumers which helps keep farmers reliable and responsible. Consumers know exactly where their food comes from with complete transparency and can be sure the products they are receiving are exactly what they say they are. Since there is no shopfront and consumers buy directly from the farmers on Happy Trade’s website, it is also an environmentally friendly solution that helps to reduce food waste. Happy Trade is bridging the gap between farmers and consumers like no one else currently in the market.

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Miss Hong and the Happy Trade team with Ms. Mo, Student Exchange Vietnam founder

Current Agricultural Practices

When asked about the current agricultural practices in Vietnam, Miss Hong responded that everything is still very manual and industrial. Mass production companies do not research the market and in turn saturate it with their produce creating market prices that are too low for organic farmers to compete with in addition excess food waste. They use a lot of chemicals without caring about the potential harm these could have in the future on their land and on their customers. The use of heavy chemicals has destroyed a lot of land in Vietnam, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find untouched land to use for organic farming. The move towards organic produce in Vietnam has been slow and gradual, but Miss Hong remains optimistic about the future of agriculture in Vietnam. Vietnamese culture is very family oriented, so many of Happy Trade’s customers are mothers who are concerned about the health of their family. Vietnamese people are beginning to see the bad effects these chemicals are having through sicknesses and even cancer, so it hasn’t been too difficult to convince people to make the move towards organic produce. They can already see the current practices aren’t good, it can just be challenging to find the right sources on their own.

 

Difficulties Faced

However, Miss Hong has faced a good amount of challenges and difficulties from both sides. Convincing farmers to change their practices and produce less goods, for one, has of course been difficult in addition to being faced with the challenge of creating a trust system and building relationships. Due to mass production and the overuse of chemicals, consumers have expectations that are difficult to meet. They expect their produce to be consistent and perfect like they can find at the market, but when things are grown naturally, there are always flaws. In addition, consumers need to be aware that they may not be able to buy certain products at certain times since organic farms have seasons and cannot produce all products year-round. Lastly, the higher prices of organic products can be difficult for many to overlook, but they have to take into consideration the much higher cost of production, increased human labor, and the long amount of time it takes to carefully grow organic produce. Consequently, it is important that Miss Hong work to educate the users about what organic means and what to expect. Organic means produce that may be smaller or imperfect, but it will have a much better taste and a much better effect on the overall health of them and their families. Building trust and educating people is crucial for Happy Trade’s future. It has not been easy, but Miss Hong is determined to continue moving forward.

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Miss Hong and intern Conor O’Hagen

Looking Towards the Future

As for the future of Happy Trade, there is a lot that Miss Hong wants to see. She wants to be able to enable farmers with more tools to improve their practices even more. She also wants the relationship between farmers and consumers to be even more direct by lessening Happy Trade’s involvement by creating more direct tools for communication and connection between the two. As you can see, Miss Hong’s goals are for the greater good, and she truly believes in the work she is doing. We love seeing companies like this on the rise in Vietnam, and we love sending interns to these types of places. We have recently sent our first intern to Happy Trade, Conor O’Hagan from the United Kingdom, and he had a wonderful experience during his time with Happy Trade. During his final presentation, Conor shared with us some truly shocking statistics that speak volumes about the importance of companies like Happy Trade and moving towards organic farming in Vietnam. Check out these statistics below, you’ll be wanting to make the switch to organic immediately! If you’re living in Vietnam, go to www.happytrade.org to get started.

 

 

Vietnam

United States

Agricultural Land (hectares)

10,000,000

922,000,000

Spent on Pesticides (USD$)

774,000,000

593,000,000

*Statistics from 2015

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