Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS) is developing grading standards for fruits and vegetables to facilitate both internal and external trade, and serve as a regulatory instrument for food safety.
The standard will be called GOOD Agricultural Production (GAP). BOBS fruits and vegetable technical committee chairperson, Otsoseng Oagile, told Business Monitor that fruits and vegetables on the market are not graded under any regulating body. He said their quality and grading systems are not guaranteed, so the GAP will allow regulating authorities to monitor farmers and ensure set grading standards are met. “Our concern is that we don’t know how these vegetables are planted and which chemicals were used.
This is mainly because we do not have the laws and standards to enable us to test these grading systems,” said Oagile.
He said GAP would accredit farmers to sell their produce to the market. “Through this GAP, commercial farmers will be accredited to sell their goods on the market. We will also be able to check the farm anytime to ensure that farmers are complying,” he said. Oagile said the primary aim of GAP is to provide safe food for consumers, to reduce risk of microbial and pesticide contamination. “The additional benefits of the programme are worker safety and protection of the environment.
“It is a fact that current technologies cannot absolutely eliminate food safety hazards associated with fresh produce that will be eaten raw,” he said. BOBS has also developed 17 standards covering grading requirements for fruits and vegetables.
“We have developed several standards but we are currently in the stage of public comment. That’s when we can move to the technical stage. Subsequently, the Council will approve them, and then the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) will enforce the standards,” said Oagile. In his presentation during the fruits and vegetables standards workshop last week, BOB’s standards scientist, Thulaganyo Ramomene said standards should be developed because a need has arisen in the market place that has to be addressed. “Standards are developed to facilitate international trade. We are judged by standards in the market place, so we have to adopt the best standards that are compliant in the international market,” said Ramomene.
He said standards should promote protection of health, safety of consumers as well as the environment where absence of such protection would result in significant negative impact.
Meanwhile, Government has been striving to improve the horticultural market.
Recently the MoA developed a new horticultural model in which farmers bring their produce to the market and receive payment for it.