Diversity and implications of food safety and quality standards in Thailand and India

Hampel-Milagrosa, Aimée / Sarah Holzapfel
Briefing Paper (17/2016)

Bonn: German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)

Dt. Ausg. u.d.T.:
Lebensmittelsicherheits- und Qualitätsstandards in Thailand und Indien: Vielfalt der Standards und Auswirkungen
(Analysen und Stellungnahmen 13/2016)

Although Thailand and India are two of the world’s largest producers and exporters of fruits and vegetables, both countries suffer from severe food-safety and quality problems with its domestic and export-oriented produce. According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the two countries are consistently listed in the EU and US 2002–2010 agrifood rejections category, pointing to inadequate compliance – or lack thereof – with international standards, alluding to the low degree of implementation of good agricultural practices (GAP) nationwide. Both countries are aware that, in order to increase food safety and quality domestically and internationally, voluntary GAP standards are key. However, compliance is costly and can threaten the existence of small and poor farmers and value-chain operators in particular. Thus, standards and their implementation require careful consideration. However, among the host of food-safety and quality standards in existence, which ones are most relevant?
In this Briefing Paper, we distinguish between Level 1 GAP standards for high-value export markets and Level 2 local GAP standards for domestic markets and lower-value export markets. We provide an overview of the opportunities and challenges of implementing different levels of standards and use the “Five Rural Worlds” (5RWs) model of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to demonstrate how standards impact and address the specific challenges of different types of agricultural producers. The primary findings of this analysis are as follows:

  • Level 1 GAP standards, such as the collective pre-farm gate standard GlobalGAP, are the most challenging to comply with and can only be adopted by a minority of producers belonging to RWs 1 and 2. Although voluntary, Level 1 standards, which are required by major supermarkets and retailers worldwide, are de facto becoming increasingly mandatory to supply high-value markets.

  • Level 2 GAP standards are local voluntary standards (e.g. ThaiGAP, IndiaGAP) introduced with the aim of im¬proving the level of food safety in domestic supply chains and to allow gradual upgrading to Level 1 standards. Level 2 standards are easier to comply with and could benefit the many traditional and subsistence agricultural households in RWs 2 and 3. In Thailand and India, parallel initiatives by the public and private sectors have led to two co-existing and overlapping local GAP standards.

Food safety will continue to remain an issue if GAP principles are not adopted on a large scale. Due to the complexity of standard requirements and the high costs of compliance, Level 1 standards are not an option for the majority of farmers in developing countries in the near future. Level 2 standards are more promising, but our case studies have shown that, if introduced by public actors, they tend to lack credibility due to a lack of capacity and resources. It is simply not possible for governments to certify millions of smallholders and to monitor continuous compliance as long as certification is not demanded and supported by the private sector. We encourage public and private actors to cooperate in harmonising standards and to jointly support smallholders in obtaining certification through institutional arrangements, extension programmes and media campaigns. Moreover, we recommend that governments focus on the implementation of GAP principles and improving quality infrastructure rather than focus on certification per se.

About the author

Holzapfel, Sarah

Agricultural Economy


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