Samrit Intaram is the Market Specialty Manager for The Mall Group, Thailand’s second largest owner and operator of shopping complexes.
“In 1997 we realized that most vegetables and fruits were contaminated with pesticides. It was then that we decided to open a market for non-chemical products. At the beginning, we purchased through middlemen and conducted our own tests to check for chemical contamination. After two years we concluded that this was not an efficient way of ensuring a reliable supply of safe products, so we contacted the Department of Agriculture and learnt how to identify and organise farmer groups who would grow pesticide-free vegetables. The idea was to buy directly from reliable producers instead of depending on middlemen.”
“As a pilot project, we started purchasing vegetables produced under the supervision of the Royal projects, using the ‘Doi Kham’ name. We also helped to organise other producer groups, and sent our own team to supervise quality control and collect samples for laboratory tests. And we organised training for these farmers on how to clean, pack and transport the produce.”
“At the beginning, the price of pesticide-free vegetables was about 50% higher than contaminated vegetables, but we can now supply vegetables from the two methods at almost the same price. The aim of the Mall Group is to supply only fruits and vegetables that are produced by non-chemical methods.”
Khaelada Jittapanya is Special Product Manager for the Lemon Farm Pattana Cooperatives. Lemon Farm has 8 stores in Bangkok, which have gained a reputation for selling healthy food.
“Lemon Farm is a small organization, so we can develop a close relationship with both suppliers and consumers.”
“For organic vegetables there are farmer groups in Pracheenburi, Lopburi, Supanburi and Srakaew. Each group has a network of certified members. They are supervised by the Organic Agriculture Certification Authority of Thailand, which uses internationally recognised standards. We occasionally carry out tests to check for chemical contamination, but this occurs very rarely because our farmers are very serious about organic methods. We have agreements with these groups about the type and quantity of vegetables we will buy. These agreements are based on the interests of our customers.”
“Our organisation is designed to operate as a cooperative. Currently we have more than 20,000 members. The education of our members is an important part of the work of Lemon Farm. In every branch we have an exhibition. We also organise training sessions and distribute a monthly newsletter. We want our members to learn about nutrition, herbal medicine, food safety and organic agriculture. As a result they can make better choices. It is important for consumers to know how their food is produced.”