CALAMBA CITY, Laguna, May 12 (PIA) - For ASEAN countries like Vietnam and Thailand, fresh vegetables are a big part of their daily healthy diet. According to the Department of Agriculture - Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Standards (DA-BAFS), Vietnamese and Thais are always confident that the vegetables they regularly consume are safe and clean. Why? It's because most of the farms in their countries are audited to ensure compliance to clean, safe, environmentally sound agricultural practices, and are certified for it. Over a hundred thousand in each of these two countries are certified according to the DA-BAFS.
"Bakit ba kailangan ng mga magsasaka, mga farm owner, at iba pang mga stakeholder sa paggugulayan na maging sertipikado sa Good Agricultural Practices o GAP ang kanilang mga gulayan? Sapagkat sa ASEAN market kung saan kasali ang Pilipinas ay isa na itong requirement. Hindi tayo makakapag-export ng ating mga prutas at gulay kung 'di GAP-certified ang ating mga farm. (Why do farmers, farm owners, and other stakeholders in fruit and vegetable farming need to have farms certified on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)? It is because in the ASEAN market, where the Philippines is a member, this is a requirement. We cannot export our fruits and vegetables if our farms are not GAP-certified)," DA IV-A Regulatory Division Chief Rufina S. Sanidad explained during the "Training on Code of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for Fruits and Vegetables" at Sta. Rosa, Laguna last April 18 to 20.
To adhere to the ASEAN Market standards on fruit and vegetables good agricultural practices, the DA IV-A has conducted a training which was joined by 60 farmers, farm owners, Local Government Units and other stakeholders.
Being GAP-certified means the fruits and vegetables supplied by the qualified farmers are guaranteed clean, free from microbial or chemical residue, and safe. It was tagged by the DA-BAFS through a stamp of safety and genuine freshness.
According to BAFS, a farm applying for a GAP Certification is audited in all aspects of farming, not limited to the quality of crops.
The history of the farm site and its past use are inspected; the type of its soil and its compatibility with crops and seed sources; the use of pesticides and fertilizers, whether chemical or organic; the accessibility to a clean water for irrigation and for washing crops; the procedures of harvesting and post-handling; and the health and hygiene of the farmer and handlers, among many others.
Aside from scrutiny, the GAP standard also requires systems to be set in place the following: (1) sanitary facilities, (2) safe storage areas, (3) post-harvest infrastructure, and (4) a paper trail for traceability, among others. Finally, the GAP certification is free.
Moreover, according to the South East Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (www.searca.org), while Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have granted GAP certification to thousands of farms, one of their studies showed that the Philippines has only four GAP-certified farms, such as Del Monte Philippines – pineapple, Basic Necessity, Inc. – lettuce and herbs, Cardava Integrated Inland Farming – cardava banana, and Leonie Agri-Corporation – various vegetables.
"The low level of adoption can be attributed to the lack of awareness and understanding of GAP on the part of both producers and consumers, costs associated with adoption and certification, the tedious and lengthy certification process, and the lack of local demand and price premium for GAP-certified produce," University of the Philippines (UPLB) College of Economics and Management Associate Professor Dr. Agnes T. Banzon explained. (www.searca.org)
Implementing activities like the "Training on Code of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for Fruits and Vegetables" which was recently conducted in CALABARZON is one of the ways to increase awareness and understanding of every stakeholder on the advantage of the GAP certification.
To keep up and be able to benefit in participating to the ASEAN market by exporting crops and products to fellow-ASEAN countries and improve the lives of the fruit and vegetable farmers, the government encourages them to apply for a GAP certification. (DA IV-A/JCG, PIA4A)