Food safety has moved up the policy agenda in industrialised countries in recent years. Governments have tightened both product and process standards, and businesses have had to respond to ever more stringent public food safety standards and the need to maintain consumer confidence. Private voluntary standards developed by groups of companies are one response to this challenge.
Complying with process-based standards and certification at the farm level has become a market access condition for access for some products. Failure to meet these challenges will undermine rural development strategies predicated on expanding agricultural production and introducing high-value products. An analysis of the EUREPGAP standard for horticulture links this standard to the development of European Union food safety regulations.
It is also bound up with the management of horticultural value chains that link together and coordinate the activities of producers, exporters, importers and retailers. As a pre-farm gate standard, EUREPGAP creates new challenges not only for farmers, but also for the exporters that play a key role in the horticultural value chains supplying European supermarkets. When some European supermarkets began to insist that Kenyan suppliers be certified, the potential impact on small farmers in Kenya was recognised by numerous development agencies.
However, to the extent that their responses focused directly on the problems of small farmers rather than on certification as a value chain coordination issue, some of their interventions were ineffective. The future challenge for donors will be both to understand better how the global food business is organised into value chains that link together dispersed economic agents, and to devise policies and programmes that recognise the possible trade-offs between business vitality and poverty reduction and identify the roles and responsibilities of public and private actors in ways that allow these trade-offs to be overcome.