Despite the potential for trade in food and agricultural products to generate economic growth and reduce poverty in developing countries, meeting food safety, animal and plant health requirements remains a challenge for farmers, processors and government agencies in some countries. Bringing together more than 20 different organizations, the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) focuses on enhancing the capacity of developing countries to implement international sanitary and phytosanitary requirements in order to facilitate market access.
In many developing countries agri-food exports offer significant potential to generate employment, increase income levels and enhance livelihoods, However, in trading their produce, countries are often challenged by strict health and safety requirements relating to food safety, animal and plant health--also known as sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS).
Exporters need to comply with SPS standards set by their trading partners, particularly for high-quality foods, including flesh and processed fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, nuts and spices. According to a 2005 World Bank report, such high-quality produce accounts for more than half of developing countries' food exports. However, in many developing countries, limited awareness about the importance of SPS capacity, combined with inadequate technical skills, infrastructure and other resources in both the public and the private sectors, hinders the ability of exporters to take advantage of these opportunities.
The Standards and Trade Development Facility
The World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures encourages governments to help developing countries meet their international obligations. Established in 2002, the Standards and Trade Development Facility is a joint initiative in capacity building and technical cooperation aimed at raising awareness, enhancing coordination and mobilizing resources in the area of food safety, animal and plant health standards.
The STDF offers financing grants to developing countries for project development and implementation. Since its inception, it has approved more than 40 project preparation grants and 43 projects, of which 55% have been allocated to least developed and other low-income countries.
The STDF also provides a forum to enhance coordination and share information on SPS-related technical cooperation activities at global, regional and national levels. Examples of the STDF activities include: action-oriented research on good practice in SPS technical cooperation; work on the use of economic analysis to inform SPS decision-making and indicators to measure SPS performance; an international seminar on climate change and SPS risks; and a workshop on public-private partnerships in support of SPS capacity. (1)
The STDF was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), the World Bank, the World Health Organization and WTO. Representatives of donors and developing countries also participate, alongside ITC, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Part of the STDF's uniqueness lies in its ability to bring together these different partners with their complementary expertise to act as a reference point for coordination and best practice in SPS technical cooperation. The STDF is also closely linked to WTO's SPS Committee, the Aid for Trade Initiative, the Enhanced Integrated Framework and other SPS programmes.
Strengthening SPS capacity comes with challenges, but also potential benefits and cost-savings as the following examples (2) demonstrate.
ADDRESSING SPS CHALLENGES TO REGAIN MARKET ACCESS
On 11 July 2003, the Government of Benin voluntarily suspended shrimp exports to the European Union (EU). …