The role of standards to facilitate trade of agricultural commodities for food security and nutrition

A successful side event organized at the margins of the Committee on Commodity Problems

How often do we think about all the regulations that surround our food? Probably never. And yet, before we can enjoy any meal, a lot of standards have been playing their role in the background to make sure our food is safe for consumption. As the world population is growing fast, so are the technologies in food safety, improved standards and trade flows enabling the agriculture industry to keep up with the growing demand. This pace is necessary to be able to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and especially Goal 2.

Market access issues are some of the most important obstacles to achieving these goals and standards setting bodies like Codex Alimentarius are challenged to deliver at the same pace as the world demands. The Codex Alimentarius, managed jointly by the FAO and the WHO, plays a critical role as the most important international standard setting body in the area of food safety, quality and trade fairness. Thus, enabling trade in agricultural products to benefit producers, importers and consumers. 

With this perspective in mind, I helped organize a timely side-event on “The role of standards to facilitate trade of agricultural commodities for food security and nutrition” that was organized in the margins the Committee on Commodity Problems since a large portion of commodity problems has to do with market access issues.

The event was chaired by H.E Anil Wadhwa, Ambassador of India to the Republic of Italy and the UN Rome-Based Agencies and moderated by Eric Robinson, Counsellor for Agriculture at the Permanent Mission of Canada to the UN Rome-Based Agencies. The side-event covered the importance of trade and international standards, as well as the need to continuously improve procedures to avoid constraints on the trade of agricultural commodities.

Speakers gave a short presentation highlighting different aspects of the challenges posed by such issues as current delays in MRL approvals, but also presented the initiative of creating a coalition that deals with agricultural commodities affected by MRLs for pesticides or MRLs more generally.

June Arnold, Head of Trade Policy at the Grain and Feed Trade Association (GAFTA) has been tackling this issue since 2007 when she joined GAFTA. “The grain industry’s challenge is to move agricultural commodities from areas of surplus to areas of deficit, provide for regulatory compliance, safety and cost efficiency. The role of Codex in standard setting is all important to the global agri commodity trade so that it can carry out its role, and international standards such as MRLs help facilitate trade and enable regulatory compliance.” She also flagged that one of the main challenges is the need to comply with zero or near-zero default tolerances which are commonly applied today by countries as they wait for limits to be established at an international level.  “We face a situation where testing technology is cheaper, easier and more sensitive, and this WILL increasingly disrupt trade and add to price volatility”.

Katie Donnelly, Director of Scientific Affairs with Tata Global Beverages, and member of the FAO/IGG Working Group on MRLs for Tea, provided the audience with some insights and experience from the Tea sector regarding this issue. “The current JMPR / Codex scheduling and review process takes too long, however Codex standards are not uniformly recognised or adopted in some tea producing and importing countries. Reforms to the Codex process and more global recognition of Codex standards are urgently needed to facilitate trade and help producers.”

Codex standards serve in many cases as a basis for national legislation. More and more developing countries are taking an active part in the Codex process.  Clara Kathurima, Deputy CEO of Rural Women in Agriculture is a farmer and expert in women's development and women's empowerment. She shared her perspective on how the setting of these international standards impacted her as an African female farmer. “Farmers face the struggle to meet various standards; the Codex Alimentarius standard included. The latter has been used as a reason of failure to settle payments to farmers, stating a shift in MRLs by the importing company.  This has led to thousands of dollars in losses to farmers!“

In developing countries pulse trade represents a golden opportunity for improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers and contributing to sustainable rural development. A global call for reform of the MRL process was initiated in the context of the International Year of Pulses 2016, through the mobilisation of numerous groups beyond the pulse sector interested in seeing improvement in the manner and speed with which Codex MRLs are being set. 

Huseyin Arslan, President of the Arbel Group for the past 15 years is one of the key actors of the Pulse sector in Turkey and also an active member of the coalition through the Global Pulse Confederation “A broad coalition of industry partners and farmers was established to improve the MRL approval process through JMPR and CCPR in order to obtain a more effective and efficient international standardization of MRL approvals which will help facilitate global trade and support food security.”

The Side event was a great success, over 60 participants showed interest to this issue. 25 countries attended the side-event: Angola, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Greece, Hungary, India, Kenya, Kuwait, Lesotho, Liberia, New Zealand, Peru, Senegal, South Sudan, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, and Venezuela.

This event marked a key stepping stone in the effort to identify key challenges for global trade around quality and timely standard setting, exploring ideas to address capacity and methodology issues. This is also another stepping stone for us to look at our food in a whole new perspective!

More Photos HERE

 

Let’s Recognise the Importance of Livestock in Achieving the SDG’s

Undeniably there are environmental impacts associated with livestock, as with everything, but with this same stroke there are irrefutable benefits of animal source proteins, especially in developing nations. The article, “Lets ‘meat’ in the middle on climate change”, discusses how eliminating meat consumption all together could have devastating effects on developing nations and proposes a solution where countries meet in the middle with a tailored approach to tackling the challenges associated with livestock and combating climate change. 

Currently, 800 million people go hungry every year and 2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Introducing or increasing animal proteins in these people’s diets can combat this. Additionally, a billion people earning less than US$2 a day around the world depend on livestock for their livelihoods. The sector represents 40% of the agricultural GDP of developing nations and as much as 60% in some poor countries. These are just a few of the staggering statistics on the importance of livestock covered in this fascinating article. To combat climate change it is going to take everyone, but it should be done in a manner that does not compromise the livelihoods and the food security of millions. Check out Polly Ericksen’s captivating article here

 

Private Sector Delegation at the UN Committee on World Food Security

A delegation of over 170 business leaders were in Rome for the 43rd plenary session of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) that took place at the FAO, October 17th-21st. The delegation was coordinated by the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM). Participation was met with excellent feedback from member states and the United Nations, and the PSM secretariat wishes to extend its thanks to all those who were present. The PSM is more active and engaged with the CFS than ever before, and we look forward to your continued support in ensuring that its stature in this forum continues to grow.

 Highlights:

  • Succesful meeting with FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva, including efforts to address regional engagement with FAO
  • Bilateral meetings with representatives from more than 60 member states and UN agencies
  • 21 interventions made from the floor by a full range of delegation members on a broad selection of topics in the CFS agenda, as well as several plenary panel slots for PSM members
  • The PSM was able to organize 4 side events and a book launch this year, reaching over 230 attendees
  • High Level Dinner bringing together 190 ambassadors, representatives of CFS member states, UN agencies, NGOs, and companies, as well as the chair of the CFS, Her Excellency Ambassador Amira Gornass and Mastercard Vice-President Tara Nathan, to discuss the role of innovation in achieving the SDGs.
  • The Partnership Forum on the Sustainable Development Goals, co-hosted with Norway and the UN Global Compact attracted an audience of 80. Featuring a diverse selection of speakers, the discussion spoke to every goal of the 17 SDGs.
  • Succesful endorsement of CFS recommendations on the role of livestock for sustainable agriculture and on connecting smallholders to markets.

For more information on the Private Sector Mechanism: www.agrifood.net 

USAID BIFAD 2016 Award for Scientific Excellence goes to a Cornell development economist and his partners

An international award for developing a form of livestock insurance has been awarded to a Cornell development economist and his partners in the USAID-funded BASIS Assets and Market Access Innovation Lab. The insurance could help hundreds of thousands of African herders stave off poverty in times of drought. Index based insurance aids pastoralists affected by drought by giving them the resources to buy feed and needed supplies before they acquire losses in both wealth and productive assets. 

The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) has given its 2016 Award for Scientific Excellence to Chris Barrett, the Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor of Applied Economics and Management at the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management; Andrew Mude, PhD 2006, principal economist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); and Michael Carter, professor of agricultural and resource economics at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis). The award was presented 12 Oct 2016 at the 2016 World Food Prize international symposium in Des Moines, Iowa.

We are proud to work with ILRI to increase awareness of the vital role livestock plays in agriculture and its contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Learn more about this award here.

 

High Level Panel on Water issues Action Plan

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and President of the World Bank Group Dr. Jim Yong Kim have convened a High Level Panel on Water (HLPW), consisting of 11 sitting Heads of State and Government and one Special Adviser, to provide the leadership required to champion a comprehensive, inclusive and collaborative way of developing and managing water resources, and improving water and sanitation related services. 

This powerhouse group issued an Action Plan for a new approach to water management that will help the world to achieve the 2030 agenda, including the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. In particular, the Panel focused on ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, as well as contributing to the achievement of the other SDGs that rely on the development and management of water resources. 

These Heads of States committed to taking action on water, and called upon Heads of State and Government, and all people, to do the same. For more information and to read the action plan, please visit the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.

 

WHO Election

The race for the Secretary General of the UN is still looking complex, and now the new race to be head of the World Health Organisation has opened up.  Please see a blog on the candidates by my friend Felix Dodds, a keen commentator on the UN:

http://blog.felixdodds.net/2016/09/its-been-busy-week-in-new-york-with.html 

 

#IamAg

What could be more exciting than recruiting young people to agriculture?  Farming First is launching a great campaign called #IamAg campaign, to encourage more young people to take up agricultural careers.  Between now and 21st October, farmingfirst.org will be sharing the stories of ag professionals from across the globe, across the whole value chain.

Our first blog post is from 29 year old Judy Nyawira, Production Manager at Shamba Shape Up - share the story of how she became involved in the hit TV show!  I am thrilled to be adding my voice in the weeks ahead.  Here’s how you can get involved too…

  1. Sign up to our Thunderclap that will send a timed tweet out, declaring what great opportunities exist in agriculture, especially for youth 
  2. Share or embed our infographic "Working in Agriculture" that showcases the many careers young people can pursue 
  3. Tweet out our individual career illustrations - we may have illustrated your career! (attached)
  4. Add a badge to your Twitter or Facebook profile to declare "I am Ag"
  5. Share blogs, videos, case studies, advice and insights using #IamAg - and you could be turned into an illustration or feature in our wrap up video at the end of the campaign!
  6. Retweet our content - there will be plenty to choose from!

 

Oat Grower Overcomes Harvest Challenges to Support African Schools

Prairie Oat Growers Association President, and a good friend, Art Enns, sowed a 35-acre crop this spring with the generous intention of donating the revenues of the harvest to the Manyinga Project. With a wet and rainy start to the harvest season, Art was in store for an adventurous day in the field. 

MEDIA RELEASE

MANITOBA – When Manitoba oat grower and Prairie Oat Growers Association President, Art Enns, sowed a 35-acre crop this spring with the intention of donating the revenues of the harvest to the Manyinga Project, he had no idea what an adventure that harvest would be.

“It’s been a challenge. In our area, we’ve been really inundated with some heavy rain and the field that I had was no exception,” says Enns. “I had some difficulties trying to get the crop in shape to harvest and then when harvesting came we also had a breakdown, but you know what – that’s all part of life.”

Swathing had to be done between rainstorms and in the mud, but the skies had cleared up by the time Enns started to combine on September 3 and the weather cooperated just long enough for him to get most of the oats in the bin.

His good luck didn’t last long. An axle on the combine broke in a mud hole, and the rain started again before he could assemble the friends and equipment needed to repair it. 

Five days later, with the help of those friends and a track hoe, he was finally able to get the combine off the field and onto higher ground. But the work wasn’t over yet.

Enns figured he still had about four hours of harvesting to finish the field, but when he thought of the obstacles faced by the kids at the two schools in Zambia, Africa that the Manyinga Project supports, he was more than willing to go back out. 

“We’ve got challenges over here, but they pale in comparison to the challenges these kids face just getting their start in life,” says Enns. “We are teaching children 10,000 miles away about agriculture and I say that we can improve their lives. I think it’s really worth it.”

This is the second year Enns has planted a field in support of the Manyinga Project, which funds two schools for orphaned and vulnerable children at Chinema and Samafunda, small villages in the Manyinga region of Zambia.

The two schools have a combined enrolment of over 400 students annually, where they are taught the state curriculum in grades one through seven.

Each school also raises field crops, garden vegetables, orchard fruits and goats to teach critical life skills in an area where subsistence farming is the primary way of life, and to help support a student nutrition program.

“Art has been a great supporter of the project, and these fields of oats he has planted and harvest over the past two seasons have made a real difference in our fundraising to support these two schools in Africa,” says Robynne Anderson, one of the founders of the group that started the Manyinga Project.

Enns estimates the crop’s total revenue should be between $9,000 and $10,000, with all of the expenses of raising the crop covered by himself and a few donors. Last year the field yielded about 125 bushels per acre, but he expects the yield to be closer to 90 bushels per acre this year.

Enns jokes that Anderson owes him a couple of stiff drinks after what he went through getting the oats off the field, but is looking forward to doing it all over again next year.

“It’s all about the children, and I’ve always had a real, deep desire to help young people,” says Enns. “For me, to be a part of something that is teaching the next generation about farming is pretty special.”

 

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Photos:

Caption: Art Enns gives the thumbs up to the track hoe driver.

Caption: A track hoe lifts the rear axle of the combine out of the mud to be repaired.

Caption: A broken rear axle leave the combine stranded in the mud.

Caption: The field of oats earlier in the season.

 

For interviews, contact:

Art Enns
Farmer and President of the Prairie Oat Growers Association
204-746-5037
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Robynne Anderson
Manyinga Project
204-227-4611
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

World Food Day: Building the Zero Hunger Generation

On October 16 the world will celebrate World Food Day, a global movement to end hunger. This year’s theme is “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too”. The FAO wants to give an opportunity to university students to join global efforts to achieve Zero Hunger.

In September 2015, 193 countries adopted the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and in doing so, committed to end hunger by 2030. The next step is to unite efforts and work together towards this goal - governments, international organizations, the private sector, academia, farmers, and also the general public all have a role to play.

Without addressing climate change, this important goal cannot be reached. Climate change is affecting the health of our planet and changing our world. It is causing more natural disasters and environmental problems, which make it harder for us to grow food.  In order to feed a growing population set to reach 9.6 billion by the year 2050, we will have to learn to grow what we need in a sustainable way.

Students and young farmers are the Zero Hunger Generation. We must encourage them to take lead in ending hunger by 2030. The more we engage them in the dialogue surrounding their future and stimulate their thoughts and opinions, the more we can prepare them to tackle climate change and world hunger.

This is why FAO is encouraging participation in the 2016 World Food Day. There are many ways to participate, including:

  • Share this message with university faculty or student associations
  • Participating in the World Food Day poster contest for 5 to 19 year olds
  • Participating in the World Food Day video contest for 13-19 year olds
  • Use FAO World Food Day posters, brochures, activity book, and social media materials to create an interactive learning environment for World Food Day
  • Promote activities through social media with the hashtag #WFD2016
  • Organize an event to raise awareness of World Food Day and the climate change theme

Learn more about World Food Day, and the exciting opportunities ahead here.

 

Tackling Malaria Through Innovation

The ability to create innovative products is essential for improved living. One of the most compelling challenges we face is malaria. About 3.4 billion people - half the world’s population - are at risk of malaria. In Africa, a child dies every 2 MINUTES from malaria. In addition to deaths, the social and economic costs from the illness are huge, estimated at $12 billion a year in Africa alone.

It is my pleasure to note that Target Malaria is nominated for the “Moonshot” award by Wired. Target Malaria is a not-for-profit consortium aiming to reduce the population of malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in sub-Saharan Africa. By reducing the population of malaria mosquitoes, they can reduce the transmission of the disease. You can vote here to support them and other innovators in this category (second award grouping).

Innovation is something that should be encouraged and celebrated in every sector. The Wired Audi Innovation Awards promote teams and individuals striving to break down barriers in whatever sector they’re working in.

In February 2016, scientist Astor Teller laid out the principles of the “Moonshot” philosophy. A moonshot, he said, should be firstly about solving “a huge problem in the world that affects many millions of people” - like malaria. Second, a moonshot should not settle for half-baked measures: it has to provide a “radical solution” that can do away with the problem for good. The last criterion, Teller explained, is the reasonable expectation that technology can actually solve the problem. Moonshots should be as much about pragmatism as they are about dreaming. Target Malaria incorporates all of this criteria, and excels in its field. Not only is this a cutting-edge research project, but it also has the potential to save millions of lives.

Specifically, the Target Malaria team is researching approaches that can reduce the numbers of mosquitoes that spread malaria. By reducing the population of the malaria mosquito, (a very specific beast called Anopheles), they are able to combat transmission of the disease. Their strategy relies on reducing the number of female malaria mosquitoes. Only female Anopheles gambiae transmit the disease, and a reduction in the number of females limits reproduction and the future population size, therefore dropping the transmission of malaria. This approach is expected to be complementary to other mosquito control methods, easy and inexpensive to implement, because the mosquitoes themselves do the work of stopping malaria. The control method would be a long-term, sustainable, and cost effective solution to prevent malaria.