Many developing countries are ill equipped to take advantage of the opportunities provided by trade. Weak infrastructure, lack of capacity and the inability to meet technical product specifications and stringent requirements in terms of quality, safety, health and the environment impede their integration into global markets. They need to enhance compliance with technical standards to heighten consumer confidence and gain access to regional and global value chains, especially those of transnational corporations.
In the rules-based trading system, the agro-food sector provides immediate opportunities as many developing countries have good climatic conditions, available arable land and a sufficient pool of labour to expand agricultural production. Given the low level of initial investment required in small-scale operations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in agro-processing can readily move up the value chain, thereby generating poverty reduction and development in rural communities.
Role of national quality infrastructure
With the globalization of production, and supply and retailer chains, ensuring the safety and quality of products is vital. Recent health concerns arising from bovine diseases, bird flu and various toxins entering the food chain have led to stringent standards and conformity procedures, particularly in the area of agro-food exports. Exporting countries must acquire the capability to conform to requirements in terms of quality, safety, health and the environment if they are to participate fully in global markets.
Two WTO agreements--Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)--define the rules under which standards and technical regulations can be formulated and how …