The PPECB’s Program Manager: Harmonization, Shawn Coetzee, recently participated in a 3-day Peer Review Mission in Paris, France. The invitation from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), was a first for the PPECB and marks the first time an African country has been approached to perform a peer review on the systems and policy infrastructure of a developed nation.
Upon the approval of the Executive Officer of the PPECB’s competent authority, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), the mission was welcomed with great humility and pride and presented an opportunity for South Africa to explore new territories within the ambit of fresh produce trade. As former Chairman of the OECD FFV Scheme and a member of the Bureau for the last 5 years, Shawn described this recognition as “a great privilege and honour epitomising the importance of building sound relations to the benefits of international objectives”.
The OECD is a multinational organisation which provides a platform for governments and sectors to engage on policy, innovations and strategic matters necessary for global development. Its objective is to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world. The OECD’s collaboration with South Africa spans through an array of policy issues including macroeconomic policy and structural reform; fiscal policy; domestic resource mobilisation; competition policy; agricultural policy; public governance; rural and urban development; and more. The OECD Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Scheme represents one of these areas within the 2500 employee-strong organisation with the main objective to facilitate international trade through the harmonization of implementation and interpretation of marketing standards. A further objective is to facilitate mutual recognition of inspections by participating countries. The Scheme is well known for its explanatory brochures on standards, but is also involved in defining inspection procedures that are recognised and applied in many countries. The Scheme organises peer reviews with the goal of supporting the reviewed country to continuously improve its quality inspection system. Currently, 27 countries participate in the OECD FFV Scheme, including several major exporting countries. New member countries are bound to join the Scheme in the near future and a Peer Review is a prerequisite for countries to obtain membership to the OECD FFV Scheme.
France has been a member of the OECD FFV Scheme for over 50 years and has been the rapporteur of many OECD projects since the inception of the Scheme in 1962. The French Ministries described the trajectory of the Peer Review as follows: “Participating at the Peer Review is a way to improve policy making and is an opportunity for benchmarking. France is interested by the assessment of the experts from other country members of the OECD scheme. The outcome of the review would be taken into account in the future development and improvement of the national inspection system”. France is also the 3rd largest producer of fruit and vegetables in the European Union (EU) with a revenue base of approximately € 7.8 billion per annum. France actively pursues imports and exports of fresh produce and during the 2013 period, the French consumptions of fresh fruits and vegetables amounted to a monetary value of € 15.5 billion. Most noticeably, the presence of pome fruit, citrus, table grapes and South African avocados are amongst the main commodities traded in France.
The Peer Review, with its focus on policy, the architecture of the French inspection system and standards capability, as well as how trade, standards and systems are intertwined to support trade within France, were completed with a positive outcome. Though recommendations have been welcomed by the French Ministry in its quest to continuously develop and improve its systems, the following 3 areas are considered highlights of the French system:
- A world class laboratory infrastructure structures around 22 Centres of Excellence to support its food safety systems;
- A robust and well organised system for approved trader inspections; and
- A holistic approach towards supporting economic conventions whilst ensuring prosperity within its national legislative-and strategic framework.
Sincere gratitude must be extended to Dr’s. Jose Brambila-Marcius and Marie Russel who formed part of the Peer Review team as well as DAFF and the PPECB making this ground breaking initiative possible.
By: Shawn Coetzee