BRIEF DESCRIPTION/BACKGROUND OF THE PROJECT
“Private food standards in agrifood chains have become increasing important due to the power and influence of retailers in the food industry. These standards were developed and are operated not by the public sector but by associations of private enterprises, mainly in the retail industry and mostly in business-to-business transactions. They are diverse in their forms and contents depending on targeted products, objectives, and owners of the standards. There are some international private food standards aimed at ensuring food safety as exemplified by GlobalGap, ISO 22000, FSSC, BRC, and IFS. There are also some private food standards that focus on the quality aspects of food and agricultural products in terms of production and process methods. There is no legal obligations for exporters to obtain certifications under private food standards but business partners in the food supply chain may require suppliers to be certified by third parties. The certification entails cost and the proliferation of such standards is becoming an obstacle for exporters in the agriculture and food sectors in developing countries. In response to concerns about the emergence of many different but similar standards, the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) has been conducting benchmarking activities for private food standards.
Producers and exporters of agrifood products in APO member countries need to know and understand the standards and requirements for certification. It also important to understand the issues faced by SMEs and farmers in complying with such standards. The lack of inclusiveness in the standard development process, complicated nature of the standards, and high cost of certification are among the typical challenges for SMEs and farmers in the Asian region.” (Taken from APO Project Notification 13-03-AG-GE-WSP-B dated June 14, 2013).
The objectives of the workshop are as follows:
1. To study the features of different private food safety and quality standards.
2. To identify issues and challenges faced by farmers and SME’s in the agrifood industry in meeting the requirements for certification in private food standards.
3. To identify strategies to enable SME’s in the agrifood industry to meet such requirements.
OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION
My objectives in attending the workshop are to learn the features of the different private food standards, understand the certification requirements and process under each private food standard, know the issues for complying with standards experienced by SMEs in APO member countries, and learn the best practices to respond to the requirements of private food standards. All these objectives when fulfilled will better equip me in providing recommendations to our food industry clients, especially SMEs who are exporting their products and to our government setting bodies in drafting the Philippine national food standards and codes of practice.
One of my tasks is to provide technical assistance to the Philippine food industry especially the exporters which include SME’s to conform with the market and regulatory requirements for food quality and safety. This APO workshop was timely and relevant this will provide information on the features of the different private food safety and quality standards which I could use as reference and/or basis for my recommendations to food industry processors, exporters and importers in meeting these requirements; and to Philippine government standard setting body in setting national standards. This workshop which aims in identifying issues and challenges faced by farmers and SMEs in the agrifood industry in meeting the requirements for certification in private food standards will provide me insights and will prepare me on how to deal with these issues and challenges. As the APO workshop also aims to identify strategies to enable SME’s in the agri-food industry to meet such requirements, this learning will help me to strategize my assistance to SMEs in meeting these standards.
PROFILE OF PARTICIPANTS
There were 20 participants coming from 14 Asian countries. Two participants came from the Philippines – one from the government, Dr. Jocelyn M. Sales (me), Chief Research Specialist of the Food Development Center – National Food Authority; and the other from the food industry sector, Mr. Philip Norman Y. Young, Director/General Operations Head of the Global Food Solutions, Inc, from San Pablo City.
SCOPE, CONTENT AND METHODOLOGY
Day 1 involved the Opening Session in the morning with the Welcome Remarks of the Dr. Eugene Lin, the Director of the China Productivity Center which was followed by the Introduction of the Asian Productivity organization (APO) by Mr. Mitsuo Nakamura, the Program Officer of the Agricultural Department of APO in Japan. Mr. Nakamura introduced each of the participants and a group photo followed.
Lectures and discussions followed until Day 2 and conducted by four resource speakers as follows:
The first speaker is Dr. Linda Fulponi, Former Senior Agricultural Policy Analyst (recently retired), Directorate for Trade and Agriculture of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). She discussed the following topics:
1. Global Food Trade and Standards;
2. Overview of the Private Food Standards;
3. Market Access Case Studies: Experience of Developing Countries on Private Standards;
4. Response to Proliferation of Private Standards;
The second speaker is Ms. Darunee Edwards, President of the Food Science and Technology Association of Thailand (FoSTAT), She delivered the following topics:
1. Food Safety Control and Management;
2. Innovation for Access to Global Food Market;
3. Opportunities and Challenges Arising from Private Food Standards for Small and Medium Enterprises;
The third speaker is Mr. Chan Seng Kit, Managing Director, K-Farm Sdn. Bhd. from Malaysia. Mr. Chan discussed the following topics:
1. Market Access Case Study: Experience of Malaysia on Private Standards for Fruits and Vegetables
2. Enhancing Competitiveness of Asian Agribusiness
The fourth speaker is Dr. Wen-Cheng Tsai, President and CEO of Superlab, Taipei, republic of China who discussed the topic on “Private Food Standards and the Implications for Republic of China.
On Day 3, morning session, each of the 14 country representative/s presented the status of food safety programs in their respective countries using the following topical format recommended by the organizers, a) Current status of the food safety and quality standards; b) Experience with private food safety certifications; and c) Issues and challenges encountered in meeting the certification requirements of buyers in different markets. The Philippine country paper was presented by Dr. Jocelyn M. Sales (me) who discussed the status of the Philippine food safety program with details on the recent passed law on Food Safety Act. On the other hand, Mr. Philip Norman Y, Young presented the experience of the private food industry with regards to compliance with the private food safety and quality standards.
The Day 3, afternoon session involved group exercises where participants worked in three groups to identify the issues and formulate strategic action plans. Group 1 composed of Cambodia, Fiji, Mongolia, Philippines, and Sri Lanka; Group 2 composed of India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Republic of China; and Group 3 composed of Malaysia, Thailand, Lao PDR, Indonesia, and Iran. Each group were asked several to respond to the break-out questions. All groups were asked to prepare a powerpoint presentation as the output of their discussions.
On Day 4, the participants had site visits to two food manufacturing companies and a testing laboratory as follows:
a) Kuo Yuan ye Foods Co., Ltd. – The company is a manufacturer of pastries with good craft over a hundred years. It was originally set up as a small cake store but in 1983, it was transformed into an enterprising company;
b) Kuang Chuan Dairy Co. Ltd – The company was established in 1956. It has approximately 2000 employees and manufactures various milk and milk products and fruit and vegetable juices;
c) SuperLab – A testing laboratory for food, pharmaceuticals, and other materials that have been certified to a number of local and international quality management systems and proficiency certifications making globally known.
On Day 5, each group presented the results of Day 3 afternoon session workshop for comments and suggestions/recommendations by the resource speakers and the participants. After the workshop presentations, the Closing Ceremony was held and certificates of attendance were awarded to the participants.
OUTCOMES AND EVALUATION
The workshop the project objectives as well as my objectives and expectations for attending this workshop. The lecture-discussions provided the features of representative private food safety and quality standards such as the GlobalGap, BRC (British Retailers Consortium), IFS (International Food Standards), SQF (Safe Quality Foods) and FSSC22000 (ISO standard for food safety); and their differences were enumerated. The workshop made me understood the certification requirements and processes of private food safety standards specifically, the GlobalGap which was discussed in detail. The challenges and issues experienced by SMEs in representative SMEs in APO member countries specifically by Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka, for complying with the standards as well as the best practices done to respond to the requirements were discussed and made clear to my understanding. Dr. Linda Fulponi is very knowledgeable on private food safety standards. She shared some of her published articles on private food safety and quality standards. Mr. Chang Seng Kit on the other hand, effectively shared his experience as a private entrepreneur on complying with the requirements of private food safety standards and the successful marketing of his dragon fruits to Europe, Singapore and Malaysia. He is an effective lecturer who will always capture the attention of the audience for his lively and interesting delivery of his presentation. Ms. Darunee Edwards is an expert on food safety control and management, innovative strategies for access to global food market, and the opportunities and challenges arising from private and food safety standards for small and medium scale enterprises. Dr. Wen-Cheng Tsai clearly discussed how Taiwan coped with the requirements of the various export markets being regulatory and private standards and how his Superlab helped in compliance with regards to testing. Mr.Nakamura, the Project Officer is very effective in the managing the time schedule of program.
RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION STEPS
The workshop is an effective venue to understand the features and requirements of different private food safety and quality standards. Due to limited time, only few were discussed thoroughly discussed. However, the expert/lecturer provided similarities and differences of representative private standards. Although these private standards are not mandated by the regulatory agencies of the importing countries, the exporters are obliged to comply as they cannot sell their products to the retailers/buyers who require these. Compliance to the requirements of private standards is costly and time-consuming. As different private standards have different requirements, the exporters also find it difficult to comply with the requirements of different buyers. It is therefore recommended that these standards should be harmonized to help the exporters comply to standards of various private standards of different countries. Having a harmonized private standard will result in a compliance that is less costly and less time consuming.
I will disseminate my acquired knowledge through an echo seminar to the FDC Quality Assurance Group who is involved in assisting the food exporters requesting for FDC services on the Inspection and certification of various food products for export. A copy of the all workshop materials will be submitted to our FDC library and will be announced to the FDC bulletin board for access of information of all interested employees. As lecturer/resource speaker to various FDC trainings and workshops on food safety and testing, I will share my knowledge by including these topics in my lecture presentations. As member of various Technical Working Groups for the development of national product standards for various agricultural and fisheries, I could share my learned knowledge during group discussions and meetings.
DR. JOCELYN SALES
Chief Research Specialist
Food Development Center-National Food Authority