Distinguished participants from the GMS countries, Resource persons, ladies and gentlemen,
I have great pleasure in welcoming you to the 5-day Regional Training Programme on “Implementing GAP in fruit and vegetable sector, its certification and accreditation” organized by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) specifically for participants from the GMS countries. This training programme is held as part of the project ‘Accelerating the Implementation of the Core Agriculture Support Program’ funded by the ADB. I would like to express my appreciation to the ADB for supporting us in this important area. I would also like to thank Agriculture and Food Marketing Association for Asia and the Pacific (AFMA) for supprting us in the organizational aspects of this regional training.
Food safety is gaining increasing importance over the years due to its significance both from health and economic perspective. Production of safe food is essential for protecting consumers from the hazards of food borne illnesses and is important both in the domestic sector as well as for increasing competitiveness in export markets.
Hazards may be introduced at different stages of the food chain starting right from the primary production such as residues above permitted levels, microbial contaminants, heavy metals and others. It therefore becomes important to address food safety right from the farm level.
Internationally the focus today is on addressing food safety throughout the food chain – from farm to plate rather than focussing only on end product testing to determine the safety and quality of the product. Following Good Agriculture Practices during on-farm production and post-production processes resulting in safe agricultural products is of immense importance for assuring a safe food supply.
Good Agricultural practices or GAP as it is commonly known are “practices that need to be applied on farms to ensure food safety during pre-production, production, harvest and post harvest”. GAP was initially introduced in the late nineties as a private sector initiative by the European super market chains and their major suppliers and was known as EurepGAP. This later changed its name in 2007 to GlobalGAP. ASEANGAP was developed in 2006 with the purpose of enhancing harmonization of National GAP programmes within the ASEAN region and enhance the safety of fruit and vegetables for consumers, the sustainability of natural resources and facilitating the trade of fruit and vegetables regionally and internationally. Many ASEAN countries have made remarkable progress in improving food safety of agricultural produce through the introduction of GAP.
While in some countries of the ASEAN such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand GAP standards and certification schemes are under implementation, in other countries such as Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, GAP is still in a very preliminary stage.
FAO has done significant work in the area of GAP implementation in FAO. Under a Japanese Government funded project “Enhancing Food Safety by Strengthening Food Inspection System in ASEAN Countries” recently two case studies relating to this area were produced - one on Group Inspection and certification for small farmers of Thailand, covering best practices throughout the supply chain for domestic and export markets´and the second on SALM inspection and certification scheme of Malaysia.
In addition to implementation of GAP by farmers, many importing countries as well as domestic buyers especially the organized retail require that GAP implementing producers are certified. Certification is the procedure through which assurance is provided that those foods or systems implemented conform to the laid down requirements. For providing certification, it is important that the certification body follows uniform and correct procedures for certification so that any bias is reduced and there is increased credibility. This can be achieved if the certification body implements the principles of accreditation. (Accreditation is the formal recognition by an accreditation authority of the technical and organizational competence of a conformity assessment body, in this case certification body to carry out a specific conformity assessment such as certification task).
In this training, the main focus is on certification aspects. The training will cover the GAP requirements based on ASEANGAP as well as the implementation aspects of GAP by fruit and vegetable farmers for the purpose of getting them certified to GAP standards. The programme is also targeted towards supporting countries in establishing a certification scheme for GAP in line with accreditation requirements.
I would like to take some time to dwell on FAO’s activities on food safety in the region. Food safety touches on the many aspects of agricultural production technologies, food handling and processing, trade and distribution. Production of safe food requires adequate controls along the food chain from farm to table. Food safety issues can arise from a range of sources including, food additives, pathogens, heavy metals, organo-chemical pollutants, residues of pesticides or veterinary drugs.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been focussing on food safety at the international level as well as regional level. FAO also responds to the needs of individual countries with regard to capacity development.
Food safety has been recognised as a priority area for FAO in the FAO Regional Conference for the Asia & the Pacific. In the latest ie 31st FAO Regional Conference for the Asia & the Pacific held in March 2012, FAO was requested to assist member countries to
- enhance capacity for participation in the design of animal health and food-safety standards
- harmonize food safety and quality standards in value chain development
- strengthen legal and institutional frameworks that govern food safety and quality in value chain development
Regional collaboration & cooperation has also been noted as crucial to address existing & emerging food safety issues which further brings about the importance of this training for GMS countries.
FAO is currently supporting around 15-20 projects in various countries of Asia Pacific Region on food safety covering capacity strengthening in different aspects of food safety including Good Practices such as GAPs.
On this specific area of Good Agriculture Practices, the main challenge faced by farmers is the cost of implementation and certification, linkage with markets, knowledge of market requirements; challenges faced by governments are deciding on which department needs to do certification (private sector or government) as well as the need to have a credible certification system in place with multi-sectoral involvement of various relevant line ministries, academia, and the private sector.
Ladies and gentlemen
In this training although the main focus is on certification aspects, the GAP requirements based on ASEANGAP as well as their implementation by farmers will also be covered with the aim of getting their product and systems certified to GAP standards. The programme also has a practical side through a field visit to farms implementing GAP which would enable participants to understand the types of activities actually being implemented for getting certified to GAP.
This training is also being converted to an e-learning module and I understand that the same has already been developed and one or two modules will be validated under this programme.
At the end of the training programme, it is expected that the participants will be able to:
- assist producers (individuals and producer groups) in implementing GAP with a view to achieving certification
- support government in setting up GAP certification programmes in line with accreditation requirements for fruits and vegetables in the country
- lead teams attempting to consolidate strategies for national codes of practice, guidelines and quality and safety programs and initiatives in relation to GAP specifically with regard to certification
- organize training courses on GAP, tailored to the needs of each country through this validated training programme on implementing GAP in fruit and vegetable sector, its certification and accreditation by users.
I wish you all a successful training programme and hope you will be able to take advantage of the resource persons to strengthen your knowledge in this area and will also get the opportunity to share your experiences so that the training programme in this crucial field of GAP can be further strengthened.
It is indeed a pleasure for FAO to be able to support and contribute to this important training, possibly a first of its kind for the GMS countries. I would also like to thank our resource persons for providing support to this important training.