Improving safety and quality of fruits and vegetables
The purpose of this project is to increase income of farmers through improved international, regional and national market opportunities of selected value chains of fresh fruit and vegetables.
This will be achieved by increasing safety and quality of fruits and vegetables from Sri Lanka and their supply to local and international markets through building and sustaining the competence of public and private stakeholders to comply with quality and food safety international requirements.
The potential for cultivating fruits and vegetables in Sri Lanka for domestic and export markets is high. A greater potential exists for the export of processed fruits and vegetables. Development of this sector and improving the quality and safety of fruits and vegetables supplied to domestic and export markets is important because of the significant contribution it can make to increase the level of national income, generate new employment opportunities, increase farm income and enhance nutrition and health of the people. The main export markets for the sector are the Middle East and South Asia, with low market penetration in East Asia (e.g. Japan, Korea) and the West (e.g. European Union). This is due to difficulties in meeting the stringent safety and quality requirements of importing countries.
The quality and safety of fruits and vegetables produced in Sri Lanka suffer from improper pesticide and fertilizer use, poor methods and practices starting from the production stage to post harvest measures. There is minimal intervention at the production or growing stage to ensure quality and safety. Poor post-harvest practices account for a loss of 30-40 percent of fruits and vegetables. There is lack of awareness of the importance of SPS requirements. Related training is rare and ad-hoc. Inadequate local testing facilities to test and certify against relevant SPS standards increase costs and delays. Lack of a proper pest risk analysis system and need for improved coordination among stakeholders also affects the sector adversely.
Enhanced availability and accessibility of SPS related information
Currently lack of technical information as well as poor access to available information is a problem. Further, most of the material is available only in English, limiting access to many stakeholders in the districts. This project aims to address this problem by making available information in all three languages (Sinhala, Tamil, English), in print format and online through the project website and also create awareness among stakeholders on the availability of information at workshops/training programmes and through press releases and radio programs. This will improve the understanding of the current status of fresh fruit and vegetables value chain and the gaps to meet international standards. Understanding the current status will be used in designing the capacity building program to address the training needs of the stakeholders. Additionally, the project covers activities that aim to collect information on pests/weeds/diseases that affect fruit and vegetable sector and to update existing database. Updating the pest/weed database will help minimize pest outbreaks, reduce risk of contamination and facilitate trade.
Enhanced capacity of stakeholders at the national & regional levels to meet SPS standards
The project will enhance the understanding of all stakeholders in the Fruit & Vegetables value chain on SPS standards, enhancing their capacity to meet SPS standards, pest risk analysis, pest surveillance and enhance entrepreneurial skills of farmers. At the moment there is very high variance in the knowledge from very low level to a medium/high level between institutions and within institutions which is a reason for lack of cooperation and coordination among institutions and officials as well. Lack of awareness and training is a major reason for the current low supply of high quality and safe fruits and vegetables for the local and international market as well. The objective therefore is to deliver a capacity building program that will bring up the knowledge/awareness of all key stakeholders in the public and private sector to one platform in terms of their awareness and understanding of SPS standards and the importance of adhering to these standards. Training of Trainers (TOT) programs are meant to ensure continuous capacity building even after the end of the project. Combined training programs help officers from different institutions to better understand each other’s needs and concerns and improve coordination. of the project contains a series of targeted trainings on ensuring safety and quality at different stages in the fruits and vegetables value chain. These cover topics, namely, Good Agricultural Practices, pest and disease management at field level, post-harvest handing, phytosanitary and food safety standards, business management, finance and marketing, with field visits to farms adhering to international best practices. Training also covers quarantine aspects, pest risk analysis, pest surveillance, and irradiation techniques.
Strengthened public-private cooperation and networking
The project seeks to improve public private cooperation and networking among all stakeholders in the F& V value chain so that they can work together to meet SPS standards. There is poor cooperation and coordination among public institutions, between public and private institutions and between stakeholders at national and district level. The networking sessions and workshops held during the project help improve cooperation and networking. The project includes ten networking sessions to bring together buyers, producers, relevant government institutions, importers and distributors of agriculture inputs and lending institutions. This provides participants with a good opportunity to share their views and explore ways to improve cooperation and coordination. These sessions are coupled with Business match-making meetings for interested participants. The outcomes of each session will be documented with recommendations made on improving coordination.