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Voluntary Standards: Impacting Smallholders’ Market Participation

Voluntary standards are rules, guidelines or characteristics about a product or a process. They are not mandatory regulations, but are used voluntarily by producers, processors, retailers and consumers. These voluntary standards are usually developed by private sector actors (e.g. firms or consortiums), representatives of civil society, or public sector agencies.

Voluntary standards are part of a growing trend in global markets. As a result, FAO and member countries are being asked to respond adequately to the opportunities and challenges presented by business models that could foster both increased food security and better market access for small-scale producers.

FAO reviewed the current evidence of the impact of voluntary standards on smallholders’ ability to participate in markets and found that it is limited mainly to three standards: GLOBALG.A.P., fairtrade and organic. Moreover, most studies focus on coffee and horticulture products, and cover only a handful of countries: Costa Rica, Kenya, Mexico, Peru and Uganda.

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