A programme worth US$65 million signed with TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) has been established to ‘develop and implement a regional version of the Global Good Agricultural Practice standards. The regional quality benchmark, called the East Africa Good Agricultural Practice standards (EAGAP), will come up with uniform quality management, production techniques, and regulatory services for the region.’ According to press reports, ‘the EAGAP is a modification of the Global Good Agricultural Practice standards (GLOBALGAP) to suit value chain structures, available capacities and resources, agronomic cultures, and ecological conditions of local smallholder farmers.’ These East African standards ‘will be translated into Kiswahili to promote adoption by small-scale farmers of the region’ and will be accompanied by ‘a robust rollout of trainings and certification’.
Some 10 million farmers across East Africa are expected to benefit from the EAGAP initiative, and it is hoped that the initiative will make it easier for East African horticultural producers to gain access to international markets. According to Dr Stephen Mbithi, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Exporters’ Association of Kenya (FPEAK), ‘this project will improve the incomes and livelihoods of small-scale horticulture farmers in East Africa due to enhanced international market access’.
The horticulture sector is already Kenya’s second largest foreign exchange earner, with the new initiative expected to ‘raise this figure phenomenally’.
The initiative is not only expected to boost exports to the EU, but is also expected to increase intra-regional trade in fresh produce as a result of the adoption of ‘uniform standards in production and packaging’. Dr Mbithi maintains that the threat to trade posed by increasingly strict consumer standards ‘can only be mitigated by a universal application of globally recognised standards by the region’s producers’.
The East Africa Good Agricultural Practice (EAGAP) programme highlights the importance of establishing targeted dialogues on the application of increasingly complex producer standards (whether at the level of formal regulations or retailer standards). This is a challenge to ACP producers across a number of sectors, from horticulture to beef. Such dialogue on the locally relevant application of production standards needs to extend to the application of formal regulatory requirements, as well as private voluntary standards. The dialogue also needs to ensure that in achieving the objectives that underlie the standards, the operational requirements established are both relevant and practical. The practicality dimension needs to take into account both the local realities, which may require a different approach in order to attain the same underlying objective, and the economic costs of the recommended measures to be implemented (e.g. the use of secure pesticide boxes with associated record-keeping, rather than the formal requirement to have in place secure pesticide stores, in order to ensure respect for pesticide MRLs). Such dialogues should focus on attaining the underlying objectives in the most relevant and cost effective manner, without in any way compromising EU food safety, SPS, animal welfare or any other production-related standards established by formal regulation or voluntary certification schemes.