Food safety is a growing demand all over the world. All food, and ingredients sold at local supermarkets or exported to EU countries, Canada and US must be traceable, and supply chain companies must be able to rapidly withdraw a batch of products from the market should the need arise.
True, we live in an ever-changing world of mass food production and, in the West at least, billion dollar retailers. Public concerns about food safety and worries about the apparent lack of transparency in the production and processing of food, mean that consumer demands have never been more stringent, according to IDTechEx, a global traceability firm.
This requires local enterprises, individuals and firms in fresh produce supply chain (including transporters, cold room/storage facilities) to maintain more detailed records and exercise greater controls, in other words called traceability in modern trade parlance.
Countries such as the United States, Canada and Japan are increasingly requiring traceability of food products and this could provide a great compatibility challenge for producers in less developed nations tryng to compete with the rest of the world.
Increasing demands for traceability of products supplied to trading partners has placed considerable demands on Africa to comply. In particular, perishable products have been singled out for increased scrutiny as to their origin, date of processing and dispatch.
Tanzania is one African country that has attempted to implement computerized registration and monitoring of livestock and coding of by-products following the passing of a new law – the Traceability Act – that is designed to help small and medium enterprises dealing in livestock by-products to gain access to international markets.
The system will help the operations of livestock identification schemes, protect public health and safety and assist in disease control in animals and animal products.
Tanzania’s Traceability Act stems from the traceability law demanded by the European Union in 2000 for agricultural and livestock producers in less developed nations to access markets in Europe. The EU gave developing countries a grace period of five years until 2005 to comply with the required standards in exporting horticultural and animal by-products to Europe.
Protectionism and Fair Trade issues aside, many Third World nations are behind schedule in complying this demand but the implementation of computerized livestock traceability systems will make it possible for cattle and other livestock to be closely monitored from birth to abattoir or while being moved from place to place.
This will make it easy for EU and other markets regulators to monitor any disease risks or order recalls for infected or defective farm products.
For African livestock farmers who are traditionally known to prefer quantity rather than quality as a sign of wealth, failing to adopt more commercialism will lock them out from international markets.
Practical business sense must now accompany their prowess in animal husbandry, and this also demands that they should be part of the value chain and more involved at that.
Farmers must now be innovative enough to understand the global standards that are being sought and to share information on appropriate technology and its application in solving trade and traceability issues that confront them.
This fact emerged last month during the second African Food Safety and Traceability Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.
Innovations such as traceability systems designed to keep details on livestock keepers, farmers, breeder associations and individual domesticated animals in special record books or computer databases must be part of their game.