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Section V. The importance of certifications and other quality schemes for the horticultural sector


General information



Will cover:


8 hours


Presentations by trainers, workshops and team discussion.


The trainer presents the requirements of importing markets for product quality attributes (such as safety) and process attributes (such as environmental and ethical concerns) as components of private certifications. The trainer explains the documents supporting these certifications, detailing its components, structure, and implementation. (Presentation 5.1 - Slides 1-36). The teams analyse, as an example, the contents of several codes of practice/protocols (Activity 1).

Next, the responses given by exporting developing countries implementing national programs to importers requirements are studied, (Presentation 5.1 - Slides 37-53). Two case studies illustrate the background, objectives, code developing process, auditing, steps to certification and the role played by private and public parties in these programs. The difficulties and advantages resulting from the programs are listed and a question and answer discussion concludes the session. (Activity 2).

The trainer explains the scope of the certifications required by importing markets (Presentation 5.1 and Slides 35-61), followed by a discussion of the opportunities for implementing country programs, including changes in the quality and safety issues, to satisfy the needs of both export and local markets (Activity 3).

Study aids for this section are reference reading Material 5.1, internet links and the references given.

Activity 4, guides in preparing follow-up action plans for different participating countries.


The participants will:


Material 5.1

Reference reading. Implications of certification for the Latin American & Caribbean horticultural sector.

Material 5.2

Working documents. Codes of Practice.

Material 5.3

Worksheets. SWOT analysis.

Material 5.4

Worksheets. Action Plan, Multiplication Plan.


Presentation 5.1

Importance of certifications and other quality assurance schemes for the horticultural sector.

Presentation 5.2

Case study. FDF Program, Chile.

Presentation 5.3

Case study. PIPAA Program, Guatemala.

Activity 1. Component parts of certifications


The trainer distributes documents or protocols supporting private certification or the general requirements from markets importing fresh fruits and vegetables (Material 5.2 EUREPGAP Protocol and Harmonization Frame for Codes of Practice COLEACP). After briefly describing the structure and components of the codes, each team lists the difficulties that the producers would face to meet each requirement. As numerous items are included in each code, the teams will study code components independently according to its structure: in the COLEACP harmonized code, some teams will work on safety, others on crop protection and the environment and yet others on social issues. EUREPGAP is structured on process stages, and teams will tackle different steps but covering all items included in the code.

Teams present their results in the plenary session, and the trainer summarizes the difficulties and obstacles detected and concludes with the importance of establishing common strategies between private and public actors to address difficulties. Next, the case studies to be covered in Activity 2, are introduced.


Participants will be able to:

Activity 2. Implementing GAP in countries exporting fresh fruits and vegetables in response to market requirements


Two case studies illustrate country programs answering to quality and safety requirements of importing markets:

Doubts and concepts are clarified in the plenary session once lectures are completed. The trainer emphasizes the basic points to assure the program success, with specifics for countries working on national programs.


Participants will identify the major points in successful and viable quality and safety assurance programs (both for export and local markets) for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Activity 3. Country analysis of strengths and weaknesses to address certification and GAP as national priorities


Teams are assembled with participants from the same country. The trainer distributes copies of the completed preliminary questionnaire (see Manual Section II, Section C), Positive facts and difficulties for implementing quality and safety assurance programs in horticulture. The original difficulties detected will be adjusted to take into account the inputs from the workshop.

Teams are advised to consider the characteristics of the fresh fruits and vegetables sector from Manual Section II and the importance of post-harvest to maintain quality of produce (Manual Section III). Teams will analyse the difficulties and opportunities in horticulture and identify the strengths and weaknesses to meet the certification requirements of the importing countries. They will also identify the limitations/difficulties involved in implementing/strengthening country safety assurance initiatives.

Teams will produce strategies to overcome the detected difficulties/convert weaknesses into strengths and discuss their conclusions in a plenary session. (Material 5.3).


Abilities to identify difficulties and obstacles to implement safety and quality assurance programs and strategies likely to overcome these difficulties.

Activity 4. Establishment of an action plan


Teams, assembled by countries, will answer to:

1. From an institutional standpoint, what items and strategies from Activity 3 can be addressed to support implementing GAP for internal and export markets?

2. What would the priorities be to achieve this? Teams are required to set objectives, activities, time frames and a responsible person for each prioritized strategy.

3. From answers to Items 1 and 2 teams define for each country a workshop multiplication plan, with:


Participants are expected to prepare an action plan defining activities for each country.



As mentioned previously, changing patterns in consumption and increased incomes, in particular in developed countries, have increased trade of fresh produce in the last decade. Consumers request fresh, natural products, with good taste, safe, healthy and nutritious. Additionally, product process attributes are also increasingly requested (sustainable production, environmentally friendly, workers’ welfare and socially beneficial).

Private and public initiatives were implemented to meet these requirements. Public efforts have covered wide options (reorganizing the standards and regulatory framework, regulating for both locally produced and imported products). An example is a United Kingdom’s bill from 1990 to assure safety of foods, whereby all importers must take all necessary precautions and enforce due diligence to avoid any failures in developing, producing, distributing or selling the product to the consumer. The HACCP approach and quality systems are implied in these provisions. In the USA, HACCP is mandatory for fisheries, beef, juice manufacturing, etc.

The standards framework to assure food quality and safety under the Codex Alimentarius Commission umbrella centers on adoption of standards, guidelines and recommended codes of practice pertaining to the safety and quality issues detailed in Section IV of this manual. Codex documents are reference material for harmonizing national standards and codes. For food safety purposes, Codex documents direct Good Agricultural Practices to:

FAO builds capacities in GAP, as mentioned in Section I of this Manual, as well as with initiatives to apply GAP for pesticide handling (Project TCP/IRA/0067 Handling and Control of Pesticides, Veterinary Drugs and Chemical Residues in Foods).

Private initiatives to assure quality and safety of fresh fruits and vegetables cover a wide variety of options: vertical integration through HACCP (for example, British Retail Consortium certifies HACCP for mechanized packaging plants) or self-certification according to codes of practice that are then certified by third parties.

Within this context, importers and retail distributors apply GAP, satisfying the consumer with profitable and sustainable production processes resulting in safe and high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables. An example of such a private initiative is the harmonization of MRLs undertaken by the EU for the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, ( Other initiatives, such as the so-called ethical trade, require fulfilling workers’ welfare and environmental conditions.

What is ethical trade?

Ethical trade requires the adoption of socially and environmentally responsible strategies in the value chain, complying with and verifying these strategies and reporting their compliance by the players in the chain. It is generic and applies to different initiatives involving social and environmental values in production and marketing. Among these values are human rights, workers’ welfare, production methods, sustainability, animals’ welfare and biodiversity. (

There is a wide variety of policies and initiatives to address social and environmental impacts of enterprises, such as:

All these are voluntary, supported by a market choosing products beneficial to producers in developing countries, are quite recent and were proposed by individual companies, industries, NGOs, governments and from alliances of different sectors. The ETI, established in 1998 by the UK, is such an alliance of NGOs, companies and traders unions, aiming at improving working conditions in developing countries, verifying the value chain for workers’ welfare and human rights attitudes (

Third party certification

To guarantee quality and process attributes, producers, exporters, exporters’ associations, etc., are certified. These certifications are based on standards and reference materials such as codes of practice, checking lists, standards, etc. These private initiatives for safety and quality assurance of fresh fruits and vegetables include, among others, British Retails Consortium Standards ( for mechanized packaging plants; United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association checking lists for orchards and packaging plants (; Natural’s Choice protocol ( and EUREPGAP Generic Code of Practices (

EUREPGAP was undertaken by European fresh fruits and vegetables retailing companies (EUREP) in 1997. This code covers consumers’ concerns for food safety, the environment and ethical matters. In 2000, the protocol was introduced in Barcelona and producers’ certifications started in 2001. EUREPGAP:

Producers will have to demonstrate the continuing consumers’ confidence in food safety with reduced use of agrochemicals and increased efficiency in the use of natural resources, with minimum environmental impact, assuring a responsible attitude towards the health and safety of their personnel while complying with national and international labor laws. See EUREPGAP is used by individual producers and producers/exporters’ organizations. There is, also, an acceptance procedure for country programs, conducted by certifiers that have been making good profits selling their services to both sides: producers and importing supermarkets. Costs of certification are on the producers side with higher costs in the implementation phases of the certification programs. See case studies Presentations 5.2 and 5.3. Even, if as of now, supermarkets requiring certification are few their number is increasing.

Response of exporting countries to market requirements

Exporting countries have implemented national programs to meet the importers’ requirements. This has resulted in implementing codes of practice/national protocols, GAP guidelines, etc., addressing the importing markets main requirements. For ACP (AfricanCaribbean Pacific) countries, the multitude of codes, resulted in the COLEACP initiative (, harmonizing all codes in one protocol meeting all European requirements, emphasizing workers’ safety and welfare and the environment.

In Latin America, two examples to satisfy the target markets requirements are the BPA program for horticultural exports from Chile ( and those under way in Guatemala ( USA supermarkets stress safety while European markets emphasize workers’ welfare and environmental protection. Chilean documents meet both markets’ requirements, while also complying with national regulations.

These documents require indicators and verification procedures to ensure compliance, in addition to clear objectives, principles and criteria. Other components and requirements are the involvement/compromise of all actors, the political will to grant these programs a national interest status, continuous training and consultancy, auditing and auditors training programs and reviewing procedures to adjust for technological advances and market changes. Further information on national codes of practice may be found at: and in Presentation 5.1.

Some GAP for melons, mango, vegetables, etc., are under way for the use of small, medium and large producers in Brazil (EMBRAPA assisted by FAO) and Colombia (SENA). In Uruguay (Ministry of Agriculture) is promoting the use of GAP in horticulture, both for export and local markets.

Governments, international cooperation agencies and NGOs promote IPM and ICM. Addressing environmental and social aspects in conventional practices, FAO leads the integrated production systems initiative, see, while Brazil has its own integrated program for food production, see

Advantages of country programs

Some advantages resulting from the implementation of standards and codes of practice are:


The largest importers of fresh fruits and vegetables from Latin America are the USA and Europe. Is a highly concentrated business with supermarkets setting their own quality standards. Even if certifications requirements are few there is an increasing demand.

Major challenges are the acceptance of national programs by the importing markets, involvement/commitment of the actors, provisions for small, medium and large producers, significant expenses for implementation and accreditation and governmental commitments making the programs national priorities.


Todays’ reality is one of different standards: different standards for different buyers and for different markets. Some producers are compelled to invest in improvements, while their competitors may not have to do so.

The increasing number of initiatives to address GAP, coupled with the associated documents required, is confusing to governments, producers, exporters and entrepreneurs, on one hand, and to consumers on the other, who may become uncertain as to their requirements concerning production systems. A need for harmonization results apparent to avoid these programs being perceived as a threat, rather than as a contribution to the sustainability of horticulture and the environment.

A widely accepted reference frame on GAP principles with adequate control and verification procedures could be a useful guide to ensure producers, traders and consumers the benefits from applying GAP to production and post-harvest. This could support adoption of a wide variety of sustainable production methods for given ecosystems with specific environmental and socio-economic conditions applicable to various beneficiaries. This reference frame could enhance transparency of all players in the chain and harmonize approaches and indicators. One such approach is the European Initiative for Sustainable Development in Agriculture (EISA) (visit

FAO holds consultations for governments and other interested parties on GAP to understand and agree on their principles, to produce guidelines for production systems, clearly identifying roles for governments and beneficiaries.

This initiative seeks an understanding and an agreement on the principles and indicators for agricultural practices leading to strategies to produce Guidelines for Good Agricultural Practices for production systems, within a regulatory framework of public and private initiatives.

Following the internationally agreed objectives to reduce hunger and promote food security, four principles of good practice apply to all scales of production:

FAO is working on approaches to good practices for assuring safety throughout the chain, including social and environmental sustainability indicators (see Documents Committee on Agriculture, 17th Session).

The strategy for this is to:


Good Practices applied within the integrated production methods and food chain approaches to ensure food quality and safety for fresh fruits and vegetables are expected to contribute to: increased food production, food safety, consumers’ protection, protecting natural resources conservation and the economic and social viability of production systems.

Technical cooperation programs addressed to applying GAP in an integrated and multidisciplinary approach for animal and agricultural production (horizontal and vertical market integration, environmental protection, social concerns, quality and safety, plant and animal health, etc.) become important.

Today, more than ever, the trend is towards a sustainable agriculture meeting the requirements of dynamic and differentiated markets. Worldwide and nationally integrated private and public efforts are basic to permit producers and exporters to gain and retain markets, as well as to protect the consumer in less developed ones.


Araya, E. 2002. Los procesos de certificación de productores, a través de EUREP-GAP. ¿Una oportunidad para la innovación en los sistemas de proveeduría de frutas y hortalizas?: el Caso de Chile. Memorias IV Simposio Internacional de Competitividad en Frutas y Hortalizas. Programa Nacional de Poscosecha, SENA. Bogotá, 2002.

Blowfield, M. and Keith, J. 2002. Ethical trade and agricultural standards getting people to talk. Natural Resources and Ethical Trade Programme. Natural Resources Institute, NRI. Chatam Maritime, UK. 2002.

EISA. 2002. European initiative for sustainable development in agriculture: A common codex for integrated farming.

ETI. Ethical Trade Initiative.

FAO. 2003. Programme: Development on codes of good farming practice.

FAO-EMBRAPA. 2002. Guidelines for good agricultural practices. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, EMBRAPA. Brasilia, DF, Brazil, 2002.

FAO. 2003. 17th Session of the Committee on Agriculture. Item 6: Framework for Good Agricultural Practices 17. Rome, 31 May-4 April, 2003. FAO.

FDF. 2002. Manual del Programa de Buenas Prácticas Agrícolas para el Sector Hortofrutícola. Fundación para el Desarrollo Frutícola de Chile. 2da Edición. Santiago de Chile, Noviembre de 2002.

NRET. 2001. Facing the challenge. Applying codes of practice in the smallholder sector? Report of the workshop organized by the Natural Resources and Ethical Trade Programme. London. 2001. Natural Resources Institute.

NRET. 2001. Theme Papers on code of practice in the fresh produce sector. Natural Resources and Ethical Trade Programme. Natural Resources Institute, NRI. Chatam Maritime, UK. 2001.

NRET. 2002. Developing good agricultural practice for African horticulture: practical issues in building and implementing standards of social and environmental responsibility. Summary of Workshop. Natural Resources Institute, NRI. Chatam Maritime, UK. 2001.

Santizo, E. 2002. Los procesos de certificación de productores, a través de EUREP-GAP. ¿Una oportunidad para la innovación en los sistemas de proveeduria de frutas y hortalizas?, El Caso de Guatemala. Memorias IV Simposio Internacional de Competitividad en Frutas y Hortalizas. Programa Nacional de Poscosecha, SENA. Bogotá, 2002.

[7] Reference document for afterthoughts: Draft document from the 17th Session of the Committee on Agriculture. Item 6: Framework for Good Agricultural Practices. 26.02.2003. FAO (

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