Bangladesh has taken steps to implement Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) – a farm assurance program reflecting consumer requirements – for the import of agricultural produce, while the country's agricultural exports are falling.
The Ministry of Agriculture says all the phases of agro-production – ranging from farming to marketing – will have to maintain GAP regulations. Farmers and agricultural item exporters must have GAP certification to send products abroad.
The ministry has already drafted the GAP guideline in line with International Organization for Standardization (ISO) requirements and published it on its website – seeking feedback from those concerned.
EurepGAP is a common standard for farm management practice formed in 1997 by several European supermarket chains and their major suppliers. The European standard took the name Global GAP in 2007 while the ASEAN GAP began its journey in 2006.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations introduced its GAP scheme in four SAARC countries, including Bangladesh, in 2013-14. In continuation, the agriculture ministry tailored the Bangladesh Gap Guideline 2020.
Md Nasiruzzaman, secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture said they are mandating the GAP certification against the backdrop of doubts – both at home and abroad – over product quality.
Many countries, and the European Union, are continuing an import ban on Bangladeshi agricultural produce while the products are also facing consumers' distrust on the local market.
The country exported agricultural products worth $862 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year while the amount in previous year was at $904 million. This means the country lost more than 23 percent in agro exports in just one year.
The size of the current international agro-market is around $1.6 trillion with six percent annual growth. Although Bangladesh tops international rankings for fish, vegetable, fruit and poultry production, agriculture officials said the country remains at the bottom in export earnings since it has not been able to ensure product quality.
The secretary said farmers who mainly produce to export their products will be trained first.
"They will be provided with quality seeds, fertiliser and pesticides. Plus the farming will be monitored closely. Then the products will be tested at international-standard labs. Farmers who pass the testing will be awarded the GAP logo and certification," said Nasiruzzaman.
The secretary said no one will be allowed to export agricultural items without GAP certification.
Previously the ministry trained potato farmers with an export target to Russia and other countries. Though the potato growers were trained, the produce failed to satisfy the importers over quality.
However, the secretary is confident about GAP implementation this time.
"Training for potato contract farming and GAP implementation are totally different things. Under GAP, every phase of farming will have to pass international standards. Those who fail to ensure quality will not even be allowed to package the products," he further said.
The GAP guideline includes data storage of all levels of farming, mandating standard certification and a logo under Bangladesh Agricultural Certification Body – plus ensuring the latest version of ISO standard.
Like the global GAP, Bangladesh's GAP number (BGN) will have 13 digits. The producer will have to renew their certification every year.
If anyone violates the terms and conditions, the certification will not be renewed for the following year. There will be an independent accreditation body to oversee the GAP certification authority. The accreditation body will operate under International Accreditation Forum regulations and maintain ISO standards.
The certification body will set up central or multiple laboratories to ensure international standards for agricultural produce.
There will be steering, technical and certification committees with stakeholders to operate Bangladesh's GAP. The committee will work maintaining international standards.
The GAP guideline aims to ensure: objectivity, eligibility, confidentiality, and transparency. There will be chances to appeal against the decision of the certification board.