The quality and safety of ASEAN-produced fruits, vegetables and meat products vary greatly due to the wide diversity of systems, infrastructure, resources and capacities in the region. While more economically developed countries have established internationally-recognized and supported good agricultural and postharvest practices (GAPs), Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Myanmar – in particular – have struggled to develop and implement the necessary systems to develop and maintain agricultural produce standards. As a result, produce from these countries commands lower prices on regional and international markets.
With the goal of promoting intra-regional trade and enhancing small-holder agricultural incomes through the acceleration of national GAP standards in the CLMV, MI conducted a ten-day training course entitled, 'Improving Food Quality and Safety through GAP Practices in Fresh Produce' funded by the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP).
During the course, participants underwent a series of interrelated modules which outlined the major tenets of successful GAP and postharvest practices, from major conceptual understandings and considerations to procedures in establishing national inspection and certification bodies. In addition, four structured learning visits (SLVs) to MI local partner organizations; Sum Sung Safety, Chemical Free Cooperatives, Betagro Company, the Global GAP Farm and SWIFT Company in Khon Kaen and Nakhorn Pathom provinces of Thailand were undertaken, reinforcing the understandings and lessons taught in the classroom sessions.
"The course was really helpful for me," stated Khun Kim Khuy, from the Royal University of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia, when reflecting on the training, "I now know what needs to be improved, both in my country and in the neighboring countries, particularly with regard to agro-chemicals. The field trips, in particular, were extremely helpful, teaching us about what the farmers are doing, what they need to do, how they can do it, and when to do it."
In total, 27 government officials and private sector staff from Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam participated in the program, which featured sessions from Mr. John Campbell, Quality Systems Coordinator, at the New Zealand Plant and Food Research Institute.
Dr. Than Than Sein, Consultant, Myanmar Fruit, Flower and Vegetable Producers and Exporter Association, reflected, "The course provided me with important exposure to GAP, which is important for my work. John Campbell, in particular, gave me the chance to learn more about agro-chemicals. I have a biotechnology background and I had not considered the importance of agro-chemicals prior to the course. In this training, I learned how to systemically handle agro-chemicals. Also, working with other participants from other GMS countries and different backgrounds significantly broadened my understanding of the subject."
Participants have already returned to their home countries where they will implement action plans to promote GAP before returning to MI later in 2013 for the final synthesis and evaluation workshop. The GAP modular training falls under the joint MI-NZAP 'Capacity Building for the Integration of CLMV Economies into ASEAN Economic Community 2015', three-year project, which is now half-way through its third year.