In response to problems in the production and marketing of shrimp, in 1998 the Department of Fisheries (DoF) of the Government of Thailand initiated efforts towards the improvement of shrimp quality throughout the production chain. With the initial support of World Bank consultants, efforts were conducted though a close collaboration between the DoF and other stakeholders for the outlining of the shrimp Code of Conduct (CoC). Regulations for the implementation of the CoC were also developed for hatcheries and farms (Section I issued in 2002) and for traders/distributors and processors (Section II, issued in 2003). CoC standards are said to have been developed in accordance with the FAO CoC for Responsible Fisheries (Article 9 on aquaculture development) as well as Codex Alimentarius and ISO 14001 standards for environmental management. The Thai Quality Shrimp scheme is structured around two levels of compliance, i.e. Good Aquaculture Practice (GAP) that focuses on individual businesses (hatcheries or farms) and aims primarily at ensuring food hygiene and safety and the CoC, which addresses the whole supply chain and also includes considerations for environmental sustainability. CoC standards are available for hatcheries, farmers, traders/distributors and processors. CoC businesses must also comply with the relevant Thai standards for feed and chemicals. In 2004 the Q-Mark labeling programme was developed to identify farms which follow CoC standards throughout the supply chain.
Inspection of establishments is conducted directly by the DoF, which is also in charge of issuing certificates, therefore acting simultaneously as a standard developer, inspection body and certification body. CoC-certified processors must submit CoC documents to the DoF proving that the products supplied were handled by CoC businesses throughout the supply chain. Applications are reviewed by a DoF committee and, only if approved, the processor is allowed to apply the "Q-Mark" label on the retail packaging. GAP standards are applicable to all the aquaculture species cultivated in Thailand. However, different inspection checklists have been produced for different commodities and types of system.
The CoC standards under the Thai Quality Shrimp scheme are strictly speaking process standards, although the DoF is also in charge of certifying products to assess compliance to the legal requirements by both Thailand and the importing country.
At present Thailand has 125 CoC-certified shrimp hatcheries and 149 CoC shrimp farms. GAP certification is reported to cover most of the shrimp sector in the country (1 061 and 20 437 GAP-certified hatcheries and farms respectively).54 In addition, GAP have also been applied to farms and/or hatcheries of other aquaculture commodities including freshwater prawns (1 373 farms), finfish (247 and 202 marine and freshwater farms respectively), crabs (64 farms), molluscs (19 farms) and frogs (12 farms).55
Although efforts on quality control have been ongoing in China for several years, in 2003, a Quality Safety Regulation entered into effect to regulate several quality aspects including general operations, inputs (water, feed, drugs) and environmental protection, in addition to traceability.56 At about the same time, efforts were also initiated to develop voluntary schemes for aquaculture certification. In addition to schemes focused on organic aquaculture, the following are worth mentioning.
Safety agri-food certification is a scheme developed by the Centre for Agri-food Quality and Safety (CAQS) of the Ministry of Agriculture. The scheme was formally established in 2003 and it is implemented through three centres of which one is dedicated to fisheries products with 68 provincial level agencies and over 3 000 inspectors.
ChinaGAP is a scheme which was initiated in 2003 by the Certification and Accreditation Administration (CNCA), a government agency that is under the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People's Republic of China (AQSIQ), which is directly under the State Council of the People's Republic of China. GAP standards for a wide range of commodities were issued in 2005 and began implementation in 2006. Standards have been developed along similar lines to GLOBALGAP, with which a MoU was also signed to benchmark the ChinaGAP standards to the GLOBALGAP scheme. Different from GLOBALGAP, however, products produced in ChinaGAP-certified farms are labeled as such. ChinaGAP standards for the aquaculture sector now include an overarching aquaculture base module in addition to another 15 commodity/system-specific modules relevant to several fish species (including tilapia and carp), shrimp, crabs and turtles.57
The Green food standard scheme is also promoted by the Ministry of Agriculture through its Green Food Development Center, which is under the Green Food Administration Office. Green food standards are not organic standards, although the two share some similarities. The Green food standards address issues related to the environment, fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals and set maximum dosages for each. Farms compliant to these standards can market products as "Green foods" on the domestic market. At present there are almost 5 000 certified producers, of which 230 are producers of fisheries products.
Adapting the Thai experiences to the Vietnamese context and with the initial support of the USDA, in 2003 the National Fisheries Quality Assurance Veterinary Directorate (NAFIQAVED) of the Ministry of Fisheries (MOFI) initiated the development of a programme aimed at improving the quality of Vietnamese shrimp, as well as promoting environmental and social sustainability.58 In 2004 the programme was expanded with MOFI funds to include a total of five coastal provinces, although efforts in a less structured way also occurred in other provinces. Similar to the Thai programme, the Vietnamese scheme is based on two levels, a GAP level focused on food safety and environmental protection and a CoC level addressing the quality of the inputs to the farming system and social responsibility. Standards were developed by NAFIQAVED in consultation with a range of national and international shrimp experts and with representatives of the shrimp industry.
Both inspection and certification are conducted by NAFIQAVED officials in collaboration with local (provincial) authorities. Although at this stage standards are voluntary, the GAP and CoC standards are expected to be applied to all the shrimp farms of Viet Nam within 2008 and 2009 respectively.
By the end of 2006 the GAP/CoC programme covered approximately 450 hectares of culture area. Efforts towards the development of standards for shrimp hatcheries and for other aquaculture commodities (e.g. tra/basa fish, tilapia, etc.) are ongoing. As GAP and CoC are relatively demanding and difficult to be implemented by small-scale producers, in 2007 NAFIQAVED initiated efforts towards the development of BMP standards to be applicable to more extensive farming systems. The intention to reach some sort of equivalence between the Vietnamese GAP/CoC scheme and GLOBALGAP has also been expressed by some Vietnamese stakeholders.59
In response to increased competition with imported aquatic products and reduced consumer confidence in seafood products, in 2005 the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of China developed the Accredited Fish Farm Scheme (AFFS). The primary focus of AFFS is to support locally grown aquatic products on the Hong Kong market by promoting the implementation of GAP and hygiene standards. The scheme is managed by the AFCD, which is also responsible for conducting farm inspections, providing ongoing technical support and issuing certificates.
Standards have been developed for environmental management of both saltwater and freshwater systems and feed and animal health management. The scheme includes compliance to traceability requirements.
Successful certification of farms within the AFFS requires compliance to process standards as ascertained during bimonthly inspections. Only if fish spent all their life cycle in an accredited farm can it be certified as an Accredited Fish Farm (AFF), requiring detailed record keeping of fish stocks held in the farm at any time and strict compliance to traceability. In addition to being based on process standards, the AFFS also requires that aquaculture commodities satisfy product standards before a farm can be successfully certified as an AFF. Fish from AFF farms are individually tagged with a unique serial code, which allows the traceability of every fish.
Aquaculture products produced under the AFFS are marketed by the Fish Marketing Organization (FMO), a self-financing non-profit organization established through a government ordinance, although without a true governmental role. Following FMO terms of reference, profits made by the FMO through marketing have to be used to promote the local fisheries industry.
At present the scheme includes 65 certified farms, which produce a wide range of marine finfish commodities (20 species) for a total production of more than 40 tonnes. Pompano (Trachinotus blochii) is by far the main commodity produced by certified farms, accounting for more than one-third of the total production. Other important commodities are cobia (Rachycentron canadum) and grey mullet (Mugil cephalus), which together account for almost one-quarter of the production.60
54 Malinee Witchawut (Department of Fisheries, Thailand) personal communication.
55 Department of Fisheries. 2007. Thailand experiences in aquaculture certification. Presentation given at the Expert Workshop on Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification, held in Bangkok from 27 to 30 March 2007.
56 Liu, J. 2007. China aquaculture: safety and quality report.
57 Liu, J. 2007. Aquaculture certification system in China. Presentation given at the Expert Workshop on Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification, held in Bangkok from 27 to 30 March 2007.
58 Nguyen Tu Cuong, Director of NAFIQAVED, Ministry of Fisheries, personal communication.
59 Nguyen Tu Cuong, Director of NAFIQAVED, Ministry of Fisheries, personal communication.
60 Dr Chow Wing-kuen (Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department, Hong Kong SAR) personal communication.