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HCMC ban on informal food trading may hurt consumers   2009-08-04 - SGTT

The coming ban on food trading outside formal retail channels in Ho Chi Minh City might not work and could even make it hard for residents to buy food, insiders say.


The city government has decided to ban sales of fresh food, including fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry and seafood, outside authorized markets, supermarkets and convenience stores. The ban, which comes into effect next Monday, aims to tighten control over food trading in the city.

There are 238 markets in the city and most of them are surrounded by makeshift shops selling mostly food items.

Nguyen Xuan Trang, manager of Pham Van Hai Market in Tan Binh District, said informal trading outside the market has been an issue for about a decade despite repeated efforts to resolve it.

The ban next Monday is unlikely to solve the problem once and for all because concerned agencies are understaffed and they cannot stop all illegal traders, he said.

But the ban will not only affect traders who do not have a place inside markets. There are concerns that many city residents, especially those living on the outskirts, may find it hard to buy food and foodstuff.

Over the past few years, many makeshift food markets have emerged in suburban districts like Thu Duc, Binh Chanh, 7 and 12 to meet the increasing demand of workers at industrial parks. These markets will be banned completely as of next week.

Most supermarkets and convenience stores are located in inner city districts. In addition, only a few of about 500 convenience stores in the city sell fresh food products.

Many stores said a storage system for fresh foods is an expensive proposition costing around VND300-500 million (US$17,500-29,200), and it would also require more staff to operate it.

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