Food Safety Challenges Encourage Collaboration Between Businesses and Farmers
Myanmar is faced with a number of challenges affecting agricultural production and trade related to food safety, quality production and difficulty accessing global markets with international standard certifications.
In quality food production, three key actors are important to work together: 1) farmers, 2) private sector/producers/traders, and 3) government. Collaboration among stakeholders is very weak, but collective action and collaboration practices among farmers and businesses is the key for agri-business development. On the topic of food safety, much still needs to be developed to ensure it, and to define the standards. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) need to be developed to tackle the lack of farmers and business collaboration to improve quality product trade promotion. By bringing these parties together, the discussion can take shape and stakeholders can listen to each other's perspectives.
Policy Dialogue on Improving Pulses and Oilseeds Crop Production
On 14 July 2019, ICCO Cooperation together with the Network Activities Group (NAG, a national NGO) and Food Security Working Group (FSWG, a network of CSOs) organized a policy dialogue session on “Improving Pulses and Oilseeds Crop Production for Domestic Consumption and Trade Promotion” in Magway, Myanmar.
More than 110 participants attended the event. Key individual policy makers and government representatives from the Myanmar AmyothaHluttaw (parliamentary) Agriculture, Livestock and Fishery Affairs Committees; the Minister of Planning, Finance and Development from Magway Region; Members of Parliament for Magway Region; officials from the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Irrigation (MoALI) and the Ministry of Commerce from Magway Region attended. Other key stakeholders were farmers’ organizations, civil society organizations and agri-businesses from Magway Region. Particularly visible was the Magway Regional Farmer Development Committee, which is a key farmer group partner for ICCO and NAG representing many pulses farmers. Each of these stakeholders participated to discuss important issues related to the trade promotion of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) products, the need to promote food safety, better regulation of agrochemical inputs, and encouragement for the collaboration of businesses and farmer associations.
Detecting Issues in Production of Quality Products and Food Safety
The objective of this policy dialogue was to inform Myanmar decision-makers and businesses, particularly in Magway Division, to detect issues in the production of quality products and food safety for domestic consumption and trade promotion. In order to tackle these, there needs to be coordination by the government, farmers and businesses including collectors, processors and traders, facilitated and monitored by development partners. By using a multi-stakeholder approach, the chances of smallholder farmers to access markets and trading opportunities improve. Similarly businesses will be able to minimize the limitations, secure quality sourcing and thereby improve the farmers’ profit share.
Role of Civic Engagement Alliance
The role of Civic Engagement Alliance was important, not only to organize the suggestions to inform policy makers and businesses to tackle the trade problems, but also to let farmers realize the need to produce quality products, and to ensure that local businesses also really work together with farmers as business partners. Civic Engagement Alliance partners ICCO, NAG and FSWG, supported by farmer representatives, especially made key suggestions toward the most important policy makers, government ministries and chairmen of the trader associations. These suggestions included:
- Farmers and agribusinesses are responsible to ensure all products are traceable and accountable for any products, while the government has the responsibility to ensure quality assurance, quality control and facilitate the international standard certification process.
- Various market opportunities for trade promotions are there: 1) non-tariff barriers negotiation with China and India and accomplish sanitary and phytosanitary requirements; 2) by attaining the trade requirements, Myanmar can get access to premium market; 3) to access to tax free, duty-free and quota free market access for least developed country (LDC) markets; 4) to improve competitiveness in its access to ASEAN free market and ASEAN Plus market.
- In the meantime, farmers and businesses need to have improved knowledge in Good Agricultural Practices and good manufacturing practices; access to proper legal quality inputs and technology to produce safe and quality products.
- Two cases of sesame farmers from Magway and mung bean farmers from Khayan/Thonegwa were presented as best cases to a study of GAP application and collaboration with businesses in agriculture production.
- There needs to be additional support to change behavior of farmers on capacities, institutions, skills, production, innovation and income-generation, and the most important basis of that is in the relationship from businesses to farmers: seeing them as business partners.
- The need to reduce the bottlenecks affecting the export of pulses, sesame and fishery products to China, India and Europe. This means making use of the opportunities such as offered by the EU general scheme of preference trade agreements as much as possible. Myanmar only has a short time to make use of this, just 3 to 5 years, to find access to those markets with quality products.
The event was quite successful, and allowed for much interaction among the government officials, businesses and farmers from Magway Regional Farmer Development Association. Based on these discussions it became possible to get involved in the development of more detailed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Chief among these is the discussion on how to operationalize food quality and trade via contract farming. In 2020, Civic Engagement Alliance partners, together with other allies in civil society, will work together to ensure Contract Farming Standard operating procedures are inclusive and tailored to farmer and crop specific contexts.