SMALL-SCALE farmers and private sector players in the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) are being capacitated on how to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures in an effort to protect the health and welfare of human, plant, and animal life in the region and beyond.
SPS measures are bio-security actions applied to protect human, animal or plant life or health from risks arising from the entry, establishment and spread of plant pests and animal diseases as well as from risks arising from additives, toxins and contaminants in food and feed.
If poorly applied, experts say SPS measures could result in the emergence of non-tariff barriers (NTBs) to trade.
In a latest update, Sadc said the capacity building programme is being done under the Trade Facilitation Programme (TFP), which the bloc is implementing with support from the European Union (EU) to enable the region to further integrate in various areas of economic development.
While Sadc has committed to removing NTBs in order to improve regional trade, the bloc says it recognises that imported agricultural products, which include plants, animals, and food products, could carry or contain harmful pests or contaminants.
“One of the failures in trade among member States, which contributes to low intra-Sadc trade is the non-recognition of conformity assessment results between member States.
“This stems from the lack of trust in each other’s national conformity assessment regimes, hence the need for a common framework for the mutual recognition of same,” said Sadc.
Conformity assessment is a collection of procedures that demonstrate that a product, service, or system complies with a set of requirements.
Subjecting a product to the conformity assessment process offers several advantages, including giving customers and shareholders further assurance that the product is suitable for purpose and safe for both the consumer and the environment.
“For this reason, Sadc member States have agreed to follow safe trade facilitation set out by the recognised international standards development organisations,” said Sadc.
“By adopting and applying harmonised SPS measures throughout the region, member states could remain confident that agricultural products, which are imported from other nations within the region comply with the relevant SPS requirements, thus easing the concern about any harmful effects on human, plants and animals, and businesses.
“This also reduces the chances of introducing SPS related NTBs to trade as measures are developed based on science and implemented in a transparent manner.”
Sadc said the work of the region’s conformity assessment bodies was to ensure compliance with relevant standards and SPS principles.
The development of the framework for mutual recognition of the certificates of compliance issued by the competent national authorities across member States was completed and the draft framework is still awaiting validation and adoption by the Sadc member States.
The TFP programme has gone even further in this regard to incorporate training laboratories in testing and calibration while inspection bodies in member States were also trained on the applicable conformity assessment standards.
Regulators in the region have also been trained on how to do regulatory impact assessments.
“This activity was done as part of strengthening the ability of regional regulators to identify and approximate regional technical regulations within the Sadc framework,” said the bloc.
“While technical regulations are set in the best interest of achieving the national legitimate objectives, it is important to ensure that the trade terrain remains even and manoeuvrable.”
According to Sadc, the TFP initiative has sponsored online surveys on the identification of standards and conformity assessment needs along regional value chains in order to define priorities for standard harmonisation and technical regulation convergence.
The value chains targeted included the categories of oilseeds, grains and meat.
The products targeted in these categories were soya, rice and poultry.
Sadc said the standards, SPS measures and related conformity assessment needs that were identified in this survey will be prioritised for harmonisation among the standards development bodies of the Sadc member States as they participate in the regional standards development framework presented by the Sadc Cooperation Structure on Standards harmonisation.