Entering export market through good quality standards: EU-AFASA Conference

The African Farmers Association of South Africa (AFASA) and the European Union Delegation to the Southern Africa organized a Conference entitled “Organic, Fair and Ethical Trade” on 19 February 2019, at the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC).

Representatives from various related institutions and companies attended and made input in the proceedings. Keynote speeches were made by the EU Trade Commissioner, Hon. Cecilia Malmström and the Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in South Africa, Mr. Mike Mlengana. The Netherlands were represented by Richard Schouten, Director of Groentenfruithuis.

The conference attempted to answer the question of reconciling social values and economic opportunities, more especially in dealing with the management of quality standards for organic agricultural primary products. This is important in light of the need to support the South African agricultural industry, especially for medium and small scale producers, to attract the international market.

Various experts from Europe made presentations about international standards, related guidelines, structures and systems that are designed to safeguard the integrity, good quality and safety standards of organic products. Richard Schouten presented The Netherlands as the second largest leader in fresh produce exports in the world. He indicated that Dutch quality management approaches integrate all the levels of the chain namely: producer, exporter, importer, retailer and consumer. This is well applied through an emerging Dutch initiative called Clean Corridors which seeks to develop mechanisms and systems that will protect the local production from the farm to the retailer. The Netherlands is the biggest importer of South African agricultural goods. Imports from South Africa in 2014 -2017 were presented as standing at the value of 30% translated in volume as 20%. South Africa was among the top three import countries for The Netherlands. The other two countries were Spain and Belgium.

Left to Right: President of AFASA, Dr. Vuyo Mahlati and Director of Groentenfruithuis, Richard Schouten at the Organic, Fair & Ethical Trade Event, Cape Town South

Reflecting on the presentations, group and plenary discussions noted that certain challenges on complying to international quality standards pose opportunities to support the South African medium and small scale producers. These include: traceability systems; food safety measures; developing user-friendly and efficient certification systems; and educating primary producers about quality and safety production standards.  Supporting primary producers to meet good quality standards will complement the agribusiness development policies for both the EU and the South African Government.

To achieve these objective the future partnerships between the EU and the South African stakeholders should seek to continue dealing with the subject of organic, fair and ethical trade through actions such as:

  • Organising the Organic, Fair and Ethical Trade Conferences on annual basis;
  • Creating a space for knowledge-sharing through a publication on organic, fair and ethical trade;
  • Conducting and commissioning initiatives seeking to consolidate all kinds of standards; and
  • Enhancing business to business collaborations and interactions through the support of EU.

Details and main presentation from the conference can be downloaded by connecting to this link: https://sadc-epa-outreach.com/events/70-organic-fair-ethical-trade-event