Reflection on the Past for a Better Future - Food safety project manager says government body will complete her jigsaw

A question raised at a market linkage workshop I recently attended in Indonesia made me look back and ask myself: What could I have done better in my completed project ‘Improved product safety and quality for the Thai fruit juice industry’?

The project, which ended in April 2015, served as a consultant to six Thai national fruit-processing factories to improve their product’s hygiene, safety and quality assurance as well as authenticity in complying with the European self-control standard of Sure and Global Fair (SGF) based in Germany. The pilot factories were mostly pineapple juice manufacturers. Thailand is the world largest exporter of pineapple juice concentrate.

Fruit growers who supplied raw materials to the pilot factories were trained in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). Market surveys on Thai fruit juice safety and authenticity were conducted. Workshops to update trends including issues and challenges of the fruit juice industry were organised and attended by roughly 100 participants from laboratories, associations and private companies. However, none of the involved government agencies were invited.

During the post-monitoring and evaluation assessment in August 2016, the team visited two pilot factories in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province and learned that they had increased their quality and assurance measures to meet the internationally required standards and, as a consequence, broaden their market access and reduce economic loss from rejected products.

Mr. Somneug Wantem of Pranburi Hotei said he felt more confident and comfortable taking to international buyers. “It is like we now speak the same language with buyers since we have improved to meet their internationally recognised standard.”


                   Mr. Somneug Wantem

Additionally, six pineapple growers from three families said that they had acquired the knowledge and skills needed for good agriculture from the pilot factories through regular visits. Some of them also received funds from the factory for a two-year certificate study course at a local agriculture college.

Mr. Amornthep Phummun, Pineapple Farmer in Kuiburi, Thailand said: “The manufacture asked if we were interested in learning about the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and we were. So, my wife went back to school with the financial support of the factory. Since then, we have experimented in applying what she learnt from her classes to the knowledge passed down to us from our parents and grandparents."


        Mr. Amornthep Phummun​ and his wife

“On the same plot of land we produce more pineapples but at less cost. We get better quality fruits and reduce unnecessary chemical inputs. The soil quality has improved and we do not have to worry too much about the chemical exposure,” said Mr. Amornthep, the father of three.

The meetings with the factory managers and farmers indicated that everything was falling into place though there were still worries about the future. Due to drought and irregular climate patterns, the constant demand for concentrate fruit juice from the overseas market and lack of any regulation and management plan overseen by a government authority, the sustainability of pineapple industry has a long journey in front of it.

Ms. Prathumporn Kitthakerng, Vice President of Takerng Pineapple Industrial, one of the pilot factories in Prachuap Khiri Khan Province said: “Thailand should have an agricultural crop zoning system for pineapple farming, including farmer registration, contract farming, and the allocation of farming and food processing quotas in order to foresee supply, quality and price of the fruit.


             Ms. Prathumporn Kitthakerng​

“This would make everyone in the supply chain enjoy a better life. Farmers and manufacturers would then not have to worry about the fluctuation or shortage of pineapples, neither the high nitrate nor low nitrate residues in pineapples, or the price of the fruits, which sometimes soars and at other times plummets,” she said.

To answer the question, “What could I have done better in the project ‘Improved product safety and quality for the Thai fruit juice industry’?”, I could have involved the government authorities in the project to work more closely in finding solutions to the issues and challenges that the farmers and manufacturers face and develop activities together to better their livelihoods.

The In-house Workshop on Market Linkages in Indonesia helped me reflect on the missing links and key actors who could support and help deliver a better outcome to the fruit juice project.

Through this, I have gained a more thorough vision and learned I need to take a 360-degree look at the options and solutions to improve and complete the gaps in the supply chain.


            ​Ms. Napaporn Rattanametta

Reflections of Ms. Napaporn Rattanametta, Project Manager, Food Safety of ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems.
 
 “What could I have done better?”

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