MRLs and Trade: Encourages all countries to be transparent on how their systems operate
Oct. 19, 2020
From producers, to traders, to regulators and consumers, the impacts of international trade regulations are felt all along the value chain. Understanding how a reliable and trusted regulatory framework feeds into all aspects of food security and safety is key to ensuring smooth trade in agricultural products.
In the interview conducted by CropLife International, experts from across the international trade landscape gave their perspectives on the vital role international regulatory standards play in facilitating trade and why reliability and science-based policy-making are fundamental.
This part is the interview with June Arnold, Head of Policy, Grain and Feed Trade Association.
What is the Grain and Feed Trade Association (Gafta)?
June Arnold: “Gafta is the international association of the grain and feed trade, representing over 1,900 companies in 98 countries and its membership is growing all the time. The association is well known for its contracts and arbitration services, with an estimated 80% of the world`s trade in grain shipped on Gafta standard terms. We also run Approved Registers schemes for fumigators, superintendents and analysts which demonstrate to customers that our members conform to the highest international standards and best practices.”
Why are transparent and predictable policies for trade of ag products so important?
JA: “Gafta members transport significant volumes of agri-bulk commodities from areas of surplus to areas of deficit to feed the world. No single economy is self-sufficient. Millions of people rely on international trade for food security and their livelihoods.”
“The agricultural trade is increasingly concerned with current trends as global regulators take decisions to establish their own MRL systems nationally, which has a ripple effect down the supply chain. Exporters cannot supply some markets where the MRL is set lower than their domestic market.”
“The constant shift or unclear policies on both active substance approval/renewal and MRL policy setting in importing markets complicates decisions for growers and for traders who rely on consistency and transparency. Non-compliance is very costly and operating to zero tolerances is not feasible in bulk supply chains. The significant volumes of agricultural commodities moving across the globe make clear and stable policies crucial so that we can comply with standards set at country level.”
“We would encourage all countries to be as transparent as possible on how their systems operate, to notify all changes in MRL policies to the WTO committees and to consider a longer timeframe to comment as 60 days is very short for stakeholders. Transparency will also assist in identifying and mitigating against any risks to minimize trade disruption through non-compliance. Short transitional periods, 6-9 months in some jurisdictions following lowering of MRLs, does not give adequate time between northern and southern hemisphere growing seasons and causes unnecessary disruption to trade, nor for alternative active substances to be found.”
How do international standards, such as MRLs, enable trade in ag products?
JA: “International standards are key to enabling trade of agricultural commodities. Gafta members are fully supportive of Codex standards based on sound science which provide standards for food safety and foster international trade. Having a robust set of international standards such as a more populated list of Codex MRLs, alleviates the variances between countries and reduces the risks when growing and selling crops to various markets, especially for minor crops. We would encourage countries to use Codex standards in an effort to harmonize MRLs.”
What can be done to improve the regulatory environment from a trader’s perspective?
JA: “We need to create a market and regulatory environment that is more supportive of trade and which minimizes disruption. To achieve this, regulatory coherence across exporting and importing countries is key to supporting trade in grain and should result in manageable MRLs without compromising food safety.”
“Governments need to put in place clear, consistent and predictable rules. Standards, sampling and testing methods as they apply to grains, oilseeds and pulses must be practical, coherent and provide for the least distortive measures. We need MRL systems and policies that are based on sound science and are risk-based and not taking a hazard-based approach which is fundamentally flawed. When countries adopt national MRL lists, we need to encourage those authorities to implement interim measures or default to Codex. Alternatively, they could accept the country of export’s MRL in the short term until national limits are set to facilitate trade. Regulatory transparency of decisions is fundamental to ensuring regulatory compliance for grain traded internationally.”
How important is science-based policy-making in the trade of food and ag products?
JA: “Science-based policy-making is fundamental. As global trade in commodities increases, the importance of standard setting bodies focused on science and risk-based approaches such as Codex and, in particular, the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR), also increases. Greater attention to the role of trade needs to be considered in CCPR, which does not reduce the scientific validity of its food safety and security mandate.”
“Enabling these bodies to work more effectively will have a direct impact on trade facilitation, on the safety and quality of international food trade and ultimately promotes trust among importers, exporters and consumers. While we look for trade enabling solutions with like-minded countries, we cannot forget the importance of resolving inconsistencies and lack of science-based policy in certain jurisdictions and to avoid this malaise spreading across the globe.”
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