Increased intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and services can help reduce Africa’s annual food import bill, currently over $80 billion, through local sourcing of import substitutes , while increasing agricultural exports from a base of around $60 billion a year.
Representatives from governments, the private sector, civil society, academia, regional bodies and agricultural value chain associations from East Africa gathered for a three-day training workshop, from 29 as of August 31, 2022, the Food safety and coordination of border regulations towards improving the security of agri-food trade in the region. Organized by the Sub-Regional Office for East Africa of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority (NCTTCA) ; the training workshop aimed to build the capacity of East African countries to comply with food safety, animal and plant health standards and requirements to facilitate safe trade. The workshop explored the links between sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) barriers and technical barriers to trade agreements vis-à-vis trade facilitation.
Speaking on behalf of the FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for Eastern Africa, Priya Gujadhur, FAO Deputy Representative in Uganda, highlighted the need for stakeholders in the agrifood value chain to respond to appropriate food safety and quality requirements for regional and international trade. Governments apply these standards to ensure food safety, protect animal, plant and environmental health, and meet desired quality requirements for commercial products.
Gujadhur further stated that food safety is at the heart of FAO’s work, supporting the achievement of better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life, leaving no one behind. next to. “Food security is a shared responsibility. There is no better time than now for the East African region to mobilize its efforts to improve food security, promote cross-border food trade and take advantage of the opportunities arising from the Free Trade Agreement. -African Continental Exchange (AfCFTA). Zero hunger will not be achieved without food security, because if it’s not safe, it’s not food”.
On his part, NCTTCA Executive Secretary Omae Nyarandi noted that East Africa has several trade and transport corridors such as the central and northern corridors. Corridors provide access to markets, connect countries and provide access to seaports for landlocked countries and play a vital role in facilitating intra-African and international trade. “Improving food security and our border regulations will go a long way in attracting outside markets to our region and thus ultimately determining the volumes of products traded between trading partners at any given time,” added Nyarandi.
It is essential to strengthen the capacity of the various competent authorities and cross-border trade actors to overcome the obstacles that affect cross-border trade. This helps to enhance East Africa’s competitiveness in cross-border trade, promote intra-African trade and take advantage of the opportunities created by the AfCFTA. Successful implementation of the AfCFTA requires addressing food safety barriers and ensuring that agrifood products crossing borders meet standards.
The workshop also discussed the essential role that micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) play in food supply chains, rural transformation and overall economic growth. The cost of compliance with some of these standards can be prohibitive, limiting their ability to benefit from business opportunities, as the cost of non-compliance with food safety standards is ultimately higher than the cost of compliance. Unsafe food further limits access to markets, which has a huge impact on farmers and producers. Improved communication, awareness, advocacy, coordination and partnerships among stakeholders is essential to improve food safety and quality systems and coordination of border regulations to maintain security Exchanges.
In this regard, the training workshop served as a platform for in-depth discussion and sharing of experiences on strengthening food security and coordination of border regulations to facilitate trade in the region. East Africa. Key recommendations have been put forward to address the challenges faced by producers, suppliers, processors and logistics players. Among the recommendations, participants suggested that for producers, awareness campaigns and training targeting farmers on appropriate inputs, Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs), food safety and quality management systems, regulations and procedures are beneficial. Organizing smallholder farmers into cooperatives or associations to become bankable, supporting research on biocontrol products, and improving infrastructure to transport produce from farms to markets are essential.
On the supplier side, strengthening food regulatory systems, harmonizing product registration procedures, improving enforcement, monitoring and surveillance capacities, and promoting technologies on natural biological products for protection plant and animal health have been suggested.
In this regard, it is essential to support processors by improving awareness of food safety requirements and standards. It is essential to inform and involve MSMEs in the development of food safety measures and to empower them to comply with them. Improving quality infrastructure, promoting food safety self-regulation, investing in packaging materials, and improving processing equipment and facilities are essential.
On the logistics side, strengthen food safety standards compliance policy and regulatory frameworks, help the private sector to comply with food safety standards, improve security and transport infrastructure in rural areas, use the centers of aggregation and improving customs clearance processes in border areas are essential actions.
Ensuring food safety in the agro-food trade
With the growth of the global food supply chain and the movement of food across borders, the potential for the spread of food safety hazards is high. The importance of food safety cannot be understated, as unsafe food leads to foodborne illness, malnutrition, food loss and waste, and reduced access to national and international markets. In Africa, more than 90 million people fall ill, while nearly 137,000 die each year from food-borne illnesses. FAO hosts the secretariats of two of the three standard-setting bodies recognized by the SPS and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO), namely the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC ) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CODEX). The third organization is the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH). These standards bodies are mandated to develop international food safety, plant and animal health standards to protect consumer health and ensure fair practices in the food trade.
Related links: Food safety and quality