Thailand, 16 Jan 2003 -- Bangkok - The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Thai ministry of agriculture and cooperatives today signed a project agreement dealing with meeting international food safety standards for the exports of fruits and vegetables as required by importing countries and set out by the WTO.
Under an agreement signed with the Thai government today, the world food agency will offer its expertise to ensure that the production of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables meets the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) sanitary and phytosanitary agreement (SPS) and the food safety requirements spelled out by the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission.
“The overall objective of the assistance is to solve or minimize the problems faced by Thailand in exporting food crops. Thailand is a major food exporter and, as such, should meet the international requirements of WTO – especially those related to microbiological hazards – and be guided by the Codex Alimentarius standards and recommendations”, said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO’s deputy regional representative for Asia and the Pacific today after signing the agreement with Sima Morakul, deputy permanent secretary of the Thai ministry of agriculture and cooperatives.
“It is the expressed intention of the Thai government that food exports conform to the WTO SPS requirements. The use of good agricultural practices (GAPs) should cover the entire food chain from the farm to the plate”, Mr Konuma added, explaining the need for technical assistance in the form of training and implementation of efficient control programmes.
The FAO project will support Thailand to improve the export inspection and certification systems for fruits and vegetables as well as the technical capabilities of the food producers and processors. The US$339 000 technical cooperation project – TCP/THA/2903 – will provide the services of thirteen international and national experts, training, equipment and support services between now and October 2004. Priority products to be considered by the project are durian, longan, mango, pineapple, papaya, lychee, baby corn, asparagus, yard long bean, sugar pea, onion and cabbage.
The food industry in Thailand plays a very important role in the overall economy of the country. Food export is a major source of foreign exchange earnings. In 2000, food exports generated an income of US$7.4 billion of which fruits and vegetables accounted for US$2.2 billion.
Difficulties have been experienced, however, in meeting the very high quality and safety standards set by many importing countries. The amount of Thai agro-industry products encountering quality and safety problems is indeed excessive. For instance, last year, over three hundred shipments of agro-industry products shipped to the United States were detained because of various quality and safety problems.
The main food safety problems faced by Thailand are the poor implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) by farmers and food producers; products with unacceptable levels of microbiological or chemical contamination; products which do not conform with Codex standards concerning hygiene or hygienic practices; limited facilities for the inspection and certification of fresh and processed fruits and vegetables; lack of understanding of the requirements and necessary systems of control by the agro-industry and government officials; and weak certification systems.
The WTO agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) set out detailed requirements and obligations regarding food safety. Codex Alimentarius provides codes of practice and guidelines for meeting international quality standards. Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) ensure that farm products meet microbiological requirements for safe and quality food.
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