A PLAN to set up laboratories in farm areas across the border to improve the quality of vegetables destined for Hong Kong is being outlined by the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD). The plan will be implemented by an unofficial organisation, the Hong Kong Federation of Vegetable Marketing Co-operation Societies, with technical support from the Government. Farmers in Guangzhou will be able to have their crops examined by trained staff before the vegetables are transported to Hong Kong. The centres will supervise the farms' production process and advise farmers on which pesticides to use. The AFD's role in the scheme is to examine the feasibility and the technical side of the centres, while the federation will take care of the operational and monitoring aspects. Under the AFD's Accredited Farm Scheme, qualified farms which grow vegetables under supervision of the centres will be able to sell their produce in special outlets. The plan will help more interested farms in China to be qualified, said an AFD officer. It is believed the move was also prompted by the fact that random inspection at checkpoints was not preventing pesticide-tainted vegetables from coming into the territory. At present, about 40 per cent of vegetables eaten in Hong Kong come from farms in China, where contaminated vegetables have regularly been discovered. Since the beginning of the year, 18 people - including 14 in one outbreak last week - have been treated for food poisoning after eating vegetables containing pesticide residue. Senior manager at the Cheung Sha Wan vegetable wholesale market Lai Kwok-yan said the tainted vegetables, mainly matrimony vines, or gau gei, were imported by unlicensed vendors who collected produce from villagers in China. As a result, random inspection has been increased from 150 to 250 samples a day for leafy vegetables, while gau gei will be checked at the wholesale market. Cases of food poisoning caused by contaminated vegetables have increased in the past two years from 39 in 1993 affecting 100 people to 75 cases last year affecting 179 people.