Implications of Improving Phytosanitary Control Systems for the Attainment of SDGs


Investments in strengthening SPS control systems in ACP countries can only be effective in contributing to the SDG objectives of poverty eradication and ending hunger if complemented by additional initiatives. Firstly initiatives to end unfair trading practices (UTPs) along ACP-EU agro-food sector supply chains through the extension of scheduled EU regulatory initiatives to combat UTPs to ACP-EU supply chains. Secondly initiatives to improve the design and implementation of EU SPS control requirements in ways which take into account the mode of production used by smallholder producers, while ensuring the integrity of arrangement for attaining underlying SPS policy objectives.

Press report have highlighted how Improvements introduced in Ghana’s phytosanitary control systems mean a ban on exports to the EU of certain vegetables (chilli pepper, bottle gourds, luffa gourds, bitter gourds and eggplants) has been lifted (see companion article ‘Lifting of EU Ban May Provide Little Relief for Ghanaian Vegetable Exporters’, 16 November 2017). The ban related to the management of four quarantine pests: false codling moth; whitefly; thrips; and fruit fly. This has enabled a resumption of exports.  According to Ghanaian government officials in the Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate the ‘current phytosanitary safeguards are sufficient to ensure that Asian vegetables from Ghana destined for EU will be free from harmful organisms’. (1)

The success of the programme is seen as making an important contribution to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty eradication and the ending of hunger. Agriculture in Ghana contributes nearly 40% to GDP, with the international trade in vegetables being seen as having ‘the potential to create as many as 20,000 skilled jobs’.

Improving phytosanitary systems in countries such as Ghana is seen as an important step forward in contributing to poverty eradication and ending hunger, since it opens up opportunities for smallholder farmers to access higher value export supply chains and creates further employment along the supply chain from farm to port of departure (1).

The improvements in the Ghanaian phytosanitary control systems were achieved by  the Ghanaian Plant Protection and Regulatory Services Directorate (PPRSD) of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana and the Ghana Association of Vegetable Exporters (GAVEX), in part with the assistance of a €1.8 million project financed by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and implemented with the assistance of a UK based not for profit company the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) (1).

This programme focused on: ‘promoting good agricultural practices in the vegetable production chain’, including improved surveillance of quarantine pests through the provision of training on data collection, analysis and reporting throughout the supply chain; the establishment and improvement of standard operating procedures in production; the construction and upgrading of sorting, inspection and packing facilities (1).

In addition to its programme in Ghana, CABI has programmes to strengthen phytosanitary control systems in 7 other west and central African countries, 8 countries in Eastern Africa, 4 countries in Southern Africa, 2 countries in the Pacific ACP region and 1 in the Caribbean ACP region (2).

Comment and Analysis

Strengthening SPS control systems is vital to ensuring ACP producers can effectively participate in high value export supply chains.  This can lay the foundations for increased exports which enhance farmers’ incomes and create employment along the supply chain, thereby contributing to the attainment of the SDG goals of eradiating poverty and ending hunger.  However it needs to be recognized that for this contribution to be effectively realized further initiatives area required.

Firstly in the SPS field there is a need to ensure that the design and implementation of EU SPS control systems are more ‘development friendly’ and do not systematically discriminate against small scale producers and small scale exporters (3). This requires taking on board the production, packing, storage and transportation realities facing smallholder producers and designing SPS control requirements which are consistent with this mode of production and supply, without compromising underlying SPS safety.

This is a complex issue to which for certain products insufficient attention is being paid. Cases in point vary from the requirements for the control of access to pesticides (4) to specifications of modes of transport and segregation of cattle in production zones already proven to be disease free (5). This can create a situation where even when SPS control system have been improved and there is an established record of effective implementation, EU rule changes can result in smallholder producers being excluded from high value export supply chains, as a result of the cost implications of the chosen methods for attaining  SPS compliance. As a consequence for some products more attention needs to be paid to how EU SPS control requirements are designed and applied in practice.

Secondly the poverty eradication and hunger reduction effects of improved SPS control systems which facilitate access to high value export supply chains serving EU markets can be undermined by the high incidence of unfair trading practices along ACP-EU supply chains (see companion article : ‘Proposed EC Regulatory Initiative on UTPs Needs to be Extended to ACP-EU Supply Chains’, 8 September 2017; ‘Role of UK Groceries Code Adjudicator could be extended’, 17 July 2017; ‘Exports of pineapples from Benin to EU to resume, but functioning of supply chain also needs strengthening’, 27 November 2017). This is an issue of particular concern in the horticulture sector which could be addressed by extending the existing scheduled EU regulatory initiative aimed at eliminating unfair trading practices within EU agro-food sector supply chains to ACP-EU agro-food sector supply chains. Such a course of action would bring immediate income benefits to small holder suppliers who tend to be the most serious victims of unfair trading practices. Enabling smallholder producers to retain a higher share of the income from the import price of exported products and providing greater security of purchase for agreed export volumes, could both significantly improve on-farm incomes and sustain investments in production improvements, including enhanced on-farm SPS surveillance and control measures.

If initiatives were taken in these two areas then investments in improving SPS control systems in ACP countries to facilitate access to high value export supply chains could indeed make a major contribution to the attainment of poverty eradication and hunger elimination goals set out under the SDGs.  However, in the absence of initiatives in these areas the hunger and poverty eradication effects of investments in more effective SPS control systems are likely to be substantially undermined.

Both of these issues could usefully be taken up in the trade component of the post Cotonou negotiations  between the ACP and the EU which are scheduled to get underway in the course of 2018.

(1), ‘Veg exports resume after work to improve phytosanitary system’, 17 January 2018
(2) CABI, ‘Projects’
(3) UNCTAD, ‘Non-Tariff Measures to Trade: Economic and policy issues for Developing Countries, August 2013,
(4) Agritrade, ‘GLOBALGAP standards to be translated into locally relevant standards in East Africa’, 6 September 2011
(5) Agritrade, ‘Commercial implications of EU SPS requirements hinder development of smallholder beef supplies in Namibia’, 4 May 2013