GLOBALGAP Certification for Good Agricultural Practices
Due to global expansion in food trade, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has set as one of their objectives the opening up of trade between countries and aims to address restrictive trade barriers. Sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) issues have always been important in global trade and have become one of the most important potential Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). Pests or pathogens may exist in one country but not in another, thus ultimately resulting in restrictive TBT. In addition, food safety has become one of the most important minimum requirements for future trade with developed countries. The rapid increase in newly reported cases of outbreaks of food-borne diseases particularly associated with fresh produce has been the primary drive towards establishing minimum food safety standards. To be part of global trade in fresh produce and food related products it will in future require compliance to some kind of food safety assurance system.
The global drive towards ensuring safe food supplies must also be seen as part of the focus on food security. Safe food must be ensured in both developed and developing countries and appropriate legislation needs to be put in place to address these concerns. The global emphasis on safe and secure food supplies must also be seen against a backdrop of an increasing number of immuno-compromises people (i.e. HIV / AIDS) as well as increased outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid, particularly in developing countries, which are often causes by inadequate sanitary measures and contaminated drinking water.
With respect to developed countries such as the European Union, the importance of food safety was emphasized by the recent outbreaks of BSE (Mad Cow disease) and Food and Mouth disease as well as traditional concerns with environmental pollution, particularly pesticides and the issues surrounding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO). In contrast to this, the main focus of concern in the United States of America is the reported outbreaks of food borne diseases often associated with the consumption of fresh or processes food.
In this scenario the importance of microbial contamination is of major concern and has been the driving force behind the establishment of the USA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) policies and surveillance systems. Currently, there are numerous systems that growers can adopt to ensure safe food production, which include amongst others Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Hygiene Practices etc.
One of the GAP systems that have taken off within the European community is GLOBALGAP. Apart from Germany and France, most other countries within the EU support this system, as do the major retailers, which consider it the minimum standard for food trade. It is important to note that these global standards will hopefully be harmonized but for the time being, major retailers will still have their own set of requirements that growers will have to adhere to.
What is EUREPGAP CERTIFICATION?
GLOBALGAP started as a retailer initiative in 1997 with major inputs and support from the chemical companies. GLOBALGAP was established by the Euro-Retailer Produce Working Group (EUREP) with the aim of setting standard and procedures for the development of GAP.
What are the Objectives of EUREPGAP?
The main objective of GLOBALGAP is, to lead the system to an EN 45011-based accredited certification system, referring to the cope of "GLOBALGAP Fruits and Vegetables". Partners from the entire food chain for fruit and vegetable production have agreed upon the GLOBALGAP certification document and procedures, which were achieved after extensive consultation over a three-year period.
Certification to GLOBALGAP will become mandatory as from March 2003 for farms growing produce for export to Europe, although the EC may allow some latitude in this regard. At this point in time different certification systems could be required for export to other countries such as the USA, and Australia. As Europe is our largest export destination, GLOBALGAP certification will in all likelihood become a minimum requirement for entry into the EU market. However, it should be kept in mind that additional retailer requirements will still have to be met.
Discussions are already underway to ensure harmonization between the different food safety schemes and benchmarking will be essential to link the various systems. While certification to GLOBALGAP will result in additional costs to growers, there will be numerous benefits. Long-term benefits include more motivated farm workers due to improved facilities, training and better working conditions with a subsequent increase in living standards. This would obviously also result in better productivity and outputs to the ultimate benefit for the grower.
Other benefits include -
- More environmentally sound farming practices
- More judicious use of chemicals and
- Most importantly a cost benefit to the grower due to better management practices enforced by the standard.
It is important to note that GLOBALGAP only covers produce up to the farm gate and thereafter other systems such as GMP, HACCP etc will become essential. All food industries must also implement GMP and GHP, both of which are prerequisite programs for HACCP. The South African fish industry, represent a classical case study in terms of its adoption of HACCP. The challenge is now for primary agriculture and the food procession industries to follow this example.
Besides the fruit and vegetables other GLOBALGAP certification procedures have been developed for fresh flower, while draft documents covering animal production protocols which includes beef and lamb; pig meat; poultry; eggs; dairy; fish farming; and game/exotic foodstuffs, have been issued. Other drafts for crops, such as barley, beans, wheat, linseed, maize, soybeans, etc. have also been prepared for release. Feed is also in the process of being addressed due to the many food scares over the past few years.
EUREPGAP Certification Bodies operating in India