It wasn’t long ago that Robert Yudin of Fyffes Tropical Produce wrote us asking Why Don’t American Retailers Just Standardize On EurepGAP?
It is a question bound to rise again with the news that EurepGAP is changing its name and title to GlobalGAP:
Using its eighth annual conference being held in Thailand this week as an appropriate platform, EUREPGAP has announced it is changing its title and logo to GLOBALGAP.
The decision has been taken to reflect its expanding international role in establishing Good Agricultural Practices mutually agreed between multiple retailers and their suppliers.
In ten years since its inception — initially targeted at Europe — the voluntary organisation has seen its influence spread and led to the creation of identical criteria adopted as far a field as South and Central America, Africa, Australasia, and most recently Japan and Thailand.
Established equivalent schemes such ChileGAP, ChinaGAP, KenyaGAP, MexicoGAP, JGAP (Japan) and most recently ThaiGAP, are backed by national governments, retailers, producers and exporters.
“Currently GLOBALGAP covers over 80,000 certified producers in no less than 80 counties with others expected to follow,” explains Chairman Nigel Garbutt. “It has meant that through the adoption of good agricultural practices subject to regular independent monitoring that committed producers regardless of their scale can compete on an equal footing.
“The reason for the name change is that it now makes common sense to clarify our far wider role at a time when both producers and retailers are operating on an international level across national boundaries.
Kristian Moeller Secretary GLOBALGAP added, “By positively aligning ourselves in this way, it allows us to identify and fit more closely and more clearly into the global supply chain.”
“The re-naming will be accompanied by a significantly improved website which will meet the information needs of our increasingly wider range of stakeholders.”
The website is www.globalgap.org, and it is clear that the more geographically extensive this standard becomes the more compelling the argument for the U.S. to hop on board.
For example, up until now, most American interest in EurepGAP was driven by British retailers. On August 17, 2007, however, JGAP, the Japanese Good Agricultural Practices standard, was announced. This harmonization of good agricultural practices is potentially quite important as Japan is a much larger customer for American producers than is the U.K.
An AmeriGAP or GAPUSA would offer the potential of expanded export markets for U.S. producers and a fixed standard for evaluating imports for retailers. In addition, it would reduce the duplicative audits that so vex growers.
It is not a perfect solution. First GlobalGAP only covers agriculture, not processing, so fresh-cut product would require some other certification on the processing end. Second, there are risks in relying on any certificate — there could be corruption or standards could have collapsed since the last review. Third, many of the GlobalGAP standards include ideas beyond food safety — crossing into environmental standards and social responsibility standards — and this may be controversial among Americans. Although one look at the video by the A&P clerks that we talked about here indicates things such as how employees are treated can have a real impact on food safety.
Still, everyone and their brother now claim to have a food safety program. They all seem to hire good names, but many times it is not clear what they are hired to do. Everyone claims they are third-party audited, but to what standard is unclear. If we are going to build regulatory and consumer confidence, we need more than amorphous claims of being third-party audited; we need a recognized standard.
GlobalGAP is kept as a business-to-business standard and does not have a consumer marketing component. There are no logos on product or other things that might raise issues with consumers. It is already well accepted, an enormous amount of work has been done, and developing a version that harmonizes with American conditions offers some commercial possibilities.
Even if there is not uniformity on this, we should move toward developing an AmeriGAP or GAPUSA so there will be one U.S. standard for those looking to export. Once the standard is established and the infrastructure built, retailers in the U.S. may well start standardizing on this for domestic suppliers as well.