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Trade in fruit and vegetables is increasingly becoming more complex. Aside from meeting the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements of an importing country, all parties in the supply chain, including producers, processors, and traders, must meet increasing consumer demand for quality and safety assurance of produce. They must also meet additional requirements of importers and retailers in terms of compliance with certain voluntary standards such as the GLOBALGAP (formerly known as EUREPGAP) and or the relevant standards of the ISO.
Understanding these standards is crucial to ensuring that all parties in the supply chain are compliant with the mandatory requirements in major importing countries and responsive to consumer demand. This will prevent rejection of exports at the borders of the importing countries as well as ensure product acceptability by retailers and eventually by consumers. To provide a venue for knowledge sharing on the various issues and challenges faced by those in the fruit and vegetable sector, the APO organized a study meeting on Quality and Safety Standards for Fruit and Vegetables in collaboration with the China Productivity Center and Council of Agriculture, Executive Yuan, 12−16 November, in the ROC. Twenty-five participants from 10 member countries attended.
Dr. Christopher S. Walsh, Department of Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, USA, introduced the concept of and emerging practices in setting and managing quality and safety standards for fruit and vegetables on the farm, in transit, and at retail outlets. He provided an overview of the phytosanitary regulations and the quality and safety assurances generally required by importers of fruit and vegetables in the USA. He also suggested a simple framework for quality and safety management known as the 4 Ws (water, wildlife, workers, and waste management).
Jean-Michel Gressard, an expert on fresh farm produce quality and safety management in France, spoke on the regulations and standards in European markets. He pointed out that in the past, EUREPGAP had focused mainly on large-scale farms in its certification system but recently had acknowledged the importance of small farmers in the fruit and vegetable sector and now provides certifications for groups of small farmers.
Dr. Hector Valenzuela, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, University of Hawaii, USA, discussed quality and safety issues, as well as the challenges for suppliers of organic fruits and vegetables to the US market. He pointed out that organic products have great market potential in the USA, and hence producers and exporters may consider tapping this expanding market.
Three local experts were invited to share their expertise. Former Senior Specialist Wen-Sam Tsai, Council of Agriculture, introduced the system of accreditation and certification of premium agricultural produce in the ROC. Dr. Fuu Sheu, an expert on biomedical phytochemistry, National Taiwan University, gave a presentation on the traceability system for fruit and vegetables. Dr. Shih-Shiung Chen, Department of Post Modern Agriculture, Ming Dao University, discussed the development vision and strategies for organic agriculture in the ROC.
The country papers presented in the study meeting highlighted the multifarious issues and challenges related to quality and safety standards in Asia. Among the participating countries, the ROK and ROC have the most comprehensive and advanced systems of monitoring compliance with regulatory standards for chemical, biological, and physical hazards in fruit and vegetable products. Field visits to the Taiwan Agriculture Chemicals and Toxic Substances Research Institute (TACTRI), Fruits Research Laboratory of the Agriculture Research Institute in Taichung, and the laboratory of Pingtung University enabled participants to examine state-of-the-art equipment and systems in place for monitoring quality and safety standards for fruit and vegetables. Visits to Han-Kuan Vegetables and Fruit Cooperative and Kaoshu Fruit Production Unit #65 demonstrated how farmers comply with regulatory standards.