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Opinion: Market Access

The Importance of Global Standards to Facilitate the Food Trade

Huseyin Arslan Huseyin Arslan

Trade, and policies that enable trade, are critical for many reasons. They help to reduce poverty, advance sustainable economic growth, support jobs, raise living standards, enhance food security, and help people everywhere get accessible safe, affordable, nutritious food.

Market access issues are some of the most important obstacles to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goal 2 to end hunger. Many of the world’s farmers, including the smallest, depend on the ability to trade their produce and purchase food; in fact they are the largest single net buyers of food.

The Codex Alimentarius plays a critical role in food trade, as the most important international standard setting body in the area of food safety, quality and fairness. It enables trade in agricultural products to benefit producers, importers and consumers.

By continuing to empower and support Codex, we can allow food trade to fulfil its full potential, yielding benefits to both producers and consumers. However, there do still exist regulatory gaps within the Codex.

One of its most important responsibilities is setting international pesticide maximum residue limits (MRLs), yet a robust and well-functioning single global Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for pesticides reference has not yet been provided by the Codex Alimentarius.

Trade unpredictability being faced by farmers in developing and developed countries alike demonstrates that there has never been a greater need for a global MRL, as without a global standard, there is a risk that shipments of safe, nutritious crops can be delayed. If treated as a food safety breach, the shipments have sometimes even been rejected, causing dramatic consequences for the farmers who had produced and sold them.

Awareness at the heart of the international community is needed about issues such as this that constrain market access for agricultural commodities.

Pulses like many other agricultural commodities (tea, coffee, cacao, canola, grain, citrus etc) are affected by these gaps in the setting of regulatory frameworks that affect the farmers and consumers. This is the reason why the Global Pulse Confederation, of which I am the President, has decided to use the campaign for the International Year of Pulses (IYP 2016) as an opportunity to open a dialogue on improving the regulatory framework in which trade occurs, in particular by setting reliable and predictable limits on MRLs that can be shared globally.

The value of global pulse trade vulnerable to missing Codex MRLs is approximately 2.2 billion Euros annually. A great deal of this trade is destined for food-insecure countries that cannot afford such disruptions in trade.

Therefore, the Global Pulse Confederation joined efforts with 18 commodity groups and companies for a global call for reform of the MRL process. Together, we have established a broad coalition of industry partners and farmers to advocate for international standards and to strengthen the Codex Alimentarius.

Members of the Coalition:

  1. Canadian Canola Growers Association
  2. Coca-Cola
  3. CropLife International
  4. European Cocoa Association
  5. European Coffee Federation
  6. FoodDrinkEurope on behalf of Federation of Cocoa Commerce and CAOBisco
  7. Global Pulse Confederation (GPC)
  8. Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA)
  9. International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), member of the CGIAR
  10. International Citrus Growers
  11. International Organization of Spice Trade Associations (IOSTA)
  12. International Trade Center (affiliated with WTO and UNCTAD)
  13. Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura (IICA)
  14. Minor Crop Farmers Alliance (MCFA)
  15. PepsiCo
  16. Rural Women in Agriculture (Kenya)
  17. Tea Association of Canada, on behalf of International Tea Commission
  18. World Spices Organisation

For most of the last two decades, the global pulse trade has grown faster than global pulse production. World pulse trade is forecast at 12.5 million tons for 2014, marking an ongoing increase in pulse trade since 1961, at an average of 5.5 percent per annum. In developing countries in particular, pulse trade represents a golden opportunity for improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers and contributing to sustainable rural development. These regions account for 70 percent of global pulse production.

Although the international pulse trade takes many shapes, one common thread is the vast potential for growth that still exists in this area. However, market access issues are some of the most important obstacles to achieving the potential of pulse trade in particular the challenges and uncertainties in meeting export requirements such as Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs).

There is a clear need to increase awareness at the heart of the general public and the international community. It is also paramount that this issue is shared among countries who are still developing their policies. The coalition is looking forward to gathering support in order to empower Codex and allow food trade to reach its full potential.

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