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Guidelines for aquaculture certification

Rohana Subasinghe, Lahsen Ababouch, Simon Funge-Smith and Jesper Clausen (FAO)

  1. The presentation provided the background to developing the guidelines and elaborated on the contents of the guidelines. The contents include: scope, principles, general considerations, terms and definitions, minimum substantive requirements and criteria, procedural and institutional aspects, setting of standards, accreditation, and certification.
  2. Recently a set of international principles for sustainable shrimp aquaculture have been developed and welcomed by FAO member countries at the FAO Committee on Fisheries Sub-Committee on Aquaculture which was held in September 2007 in New Delhi, India. The International Principles have been developed by the Consortium on Shrimp Farming and the Environment, which consists of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Network of Aquaculture Centres in Asia-Pacific (NACA), the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP/GPA), the World Bank (WB) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Based on these internationally accepted principles together with the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries FAO has started to develop FAO guidelines for aquaculture certification. The Sub-Committee commented that the emergence of a wide range of certification schemes and accreditation bodies was creating confusion amongst producers and consumers alike and stated that there was a need for more globally accepted norms for aquaculture production, which could provide more guidance and serve as a basis for improved harmonization and facilitate mutual recognition and equivalence of such certification schemes.
  3. In response to the recommendations of the Aquaculture Sub-committee (ASC) of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI), FAO and NACA have initiated to draft a set of Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification. This has so far resulted in the forming of a secretariat between FAO and NACA and two expert workshops and the development of a draft document on Guidelines for Aquaculture Certification.

Opportunities and challenges of certification in aquaculture for the APFIC region

Flavio Corsin (APFIC Consultant)

  1. The presentation provided a general coverage of aquaculture certification schemes and associated schemes which may have relevance to aquaculture certification. There seems to be an increasing demand and willingness to pay for sustainable aquaculture products. The main areas currently covered by certification schemes are environmental and social sustainable aquaculture development and food safety. The main trends in aquaculture certification are an increasing number of schemes, an increasing number of commodities covered by schemes, increasing scope of standards (social, environment; food safety; trade), and they are all driven by an increasing demand for certified products.
  2. It was concluded that there was an increasing trend in the number of certification schemes and the number of commodities that are covered. There is also an increase in the scope of the standards being set with respect to social, environmental as well as food safety aspects. There are still niche certification schemes but there is a trend towards larger market (main stream) certification. Often the standards are demanding for the producers and the processors. This could be a reason for the fact that currently most certified farms are large-scale. There are no certification schemes directly addressing small-scale producers who contribute to the main production.
  3. Voluntary certification is a business decision by the involved farmer or farmer group have to make taking into consideration costs and benefits. Is there a premium price, is there a market and can it be accessed after certification? There is already a tendency that better farmers are seeking certification to "document" they are better. Looking at markets it should be noted that it is expected that the demand for fisheries products will rise by 40 million tonnes in 2030. It can only be recommended to get certified if there really is a clear market demand.
  4. If certification of aquaculture products target true sustainability the approaches used for aquaculture certification should include: Multi-stakeholders participation and be consensus and performance based. The schemes should be focused on key impacts from aquaculture and if possible local/regional certifiers should be used. It might be a solution to certify areas instead of only individual farms and hence make sustainability and certification a shared responsibility.

Food safety, trade and aquaculture

Lahsen Ababouch, Simon Funge-Smith and Jesper Clausen (FAO)

  1. Food safety and quality are very important when dealing with seafood products both from fisheries and from aquaculture. The principles of achieving harmonization of standards and equivalency in food control systems and the use of scientifically-based standards are embodied in two binding agreements of the WTO: the Agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures and the Agreement on technical barriers to trade (TBT). The SPS agreement confirms the right of WTO member countries to apply measures necessary to protect human, animal and plant life and health. The objective of the TBT Agreement is to prevent the use of national or regional technical requirements, or standards in general, as unjustified technical barriers to trade. The agreement covers standards relating to all types of products including industrial products and quality requirements for foods (except requirements related to SPS measures).
  2. FAO's normative work in food safety and quality is focused on food standards linked to the Codex Alimentarius and developed in close collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), and related capacity-building. Codex Alimentarius includes standards for all principal foods (whether processed, semi-processed or raw) for distribution to the consumer, with provisions related to food hygiene, food additives, pesticide residues, contaminants, labelling, presentation, methods of analysis and sampling. The Codex Secretariat, housed in the FAO Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division (AGN), has primary responsibility for normative work on food safety. When dealing with certification it is important to focus on things not already covered by existing legislation.
  3. It is important to keep focus of what it is we are trying to achieve with certification. The main issue is to improve product safety and improve transparency. This will improve consumer confidence and that will be a benefit for the producers. It is important to keep in mind that certification have to be efficient and cost effective. Main principles are to keep the schemes regulatory for the sector and market driven.
  4. The conclusion is that it is crucial to ensure a level playing field both internationally and regionally when it comes to trade and certification should help in that matter, not make obstacles for trade. At the same time certification should be cost efficient and it should be clearly defined who will bear costs and who will enjoy the benefits. Certification schemes should not only focus on the consumer benefits and their requirements but also on the producers and their farm management practices.

Certification and collaborative supply chains in the agricultural sector

Jean-Joseph Cadilhon (FAO)

  1. Industrialized countries have seen a strong growth in demand for high-value foods such as fresh-cut fruits and vegetables. Many developing countries have taken advantage of their cost- and climate-competitiveness to supply such produce to consumers in developed countries. This strategy at first brought major returns on investment for agribusinesses exporting such high-value produce. However, recent studies show that operating margins have been reduced because of intense competition, as detailed below.
  2. Consumer demand has also changed in developing countries and in Asia in particular. With income growth and urbanization, and demographic, cultural and social changes in consumer preferences and eating habits, increasing travel and booming tourism, demand for new products is being put onto the domestic marketing systems. International supermarket chains and local supermarkets have also developed their store area and market share of food. These changes provide opportunities for agribusinesses to increase the added-value of their produce, although intense competition is driving margins down.
  3. National governments have encouraged this trend towards higher-quality agricultural products through national quality assurance schemes such as good agricultural practices (GAP), good manufacturing practices (GMP) and organic agriculture. However, linking these national quality assurance schemes with private sector-led initiatives is proving difficult. The latter are increasingly dictating processes that must be used by producers and processors if they wish to gain access to domestic and international high-value or niche market chains. Such private quality initiatives include some GAP schemes (JGAP from Japan, ThaiGAP in Thailand), standards set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), fair-trade systems, British Retail Consortium (BRC) standards, International Food Standard (IFS) standards and GLOBALGAP (formerly EUREPGAP). Participation in these private quality assurance schemes generally entails some independent third-party verification process known as certification. The certification business is growing as a result in Asia with international and local players competing to provide the best certification services needed by agribusinesses in the region.
  4. Independent peer-reviewed empirical research studying the impact of certification on smallholders is scarce because of the lack of data available when researching the private standards involved. FAO has conducted a few studies focusing on GLOBALGAP and organic products. Preliminary results show that labour- and land-intensive farming systems allow more remunerative smallholder participation in high-value chains. Grouping small farmers into formal or informal entities helps them share the investment costs of converting to more demanding production systems and shouldering the certification costs themselves.
  5. The actual costs of certification are generally low in relative terms, being only 7 percent, on average, of the on-going costs linked to practising organic agriculture. Obtaining certification does not only open market opportunities, it also places smallholders into a feeling of ownership of the quality assurance scheme and enhances their self-confidence as a group or community. Although some quality assurance schemes like GLOBALGAP require expensive investments into farm infrastructure and laboratory analyses, the main hurdles to smallholder farmers being able to benefit fully from certification are organizational and educational. It is essential to develop producers' knowledge about the quality assurance scheme and its goals and to strengthen their skills in complying with the scheme. An appropriate enabling environment is thus needed to help smallholder farmers grasp the benefits improved quality will bring to them and the importance of innovation to respond to the changing demands of consumer markets.

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