Small Companies in Asia Receive a Boost to Tackle Food Safety

Small and Medium size Enterprises (SMEs) in Asia have welcomed a tailor-made tool designed by collaborative industry organisations to help SME suppliers and food manufacturers gain access to global supply chains.

The new food safety web portal will complement other programmes currently available to food & agribusiness SMEs in Asia that have shown how stronger compliance can boost opportunities for smaller players.

A joint initiative, the portal gives free public access to the Global Food Safety Initiative’s (GFSI) Global Markets Programme from links within the International Trade Centre’s (ITC) Standards Map. This means that businesses can publicly access best practices in food safety, generate diagnostic profiles online, and share these with business partners and third party auditors.

The launch follows the success of other local initiatives supported by GFSI, such as Malaysia’s Sustainable Supplier Development Program (SSDP), which uses the GFSI Global Markets Protocol as a basis, and has successfully supported many SMEs to grow since starting two years ago.

In evidence of SSDP’s success, it was announced by Noraini Binti Dato’ Mahd Othman, Senior Director of the Malaysian Ministry of Health at this year’s Global Food Safety Conference, that SSDP would be nationalised. The conference was also addressed by representatives from small Asian food businesses who spoke enthusiastically about its benefits and the unexpected growth they had achieved thanks to increased confidence in their safety systems.

In talking about the application of the new tool in Asia, GFSI’s Director Veronique Discours-Buhot said, “The mission of GFSI is a global one. Our overriding vision is for safe food for consumers everywhere. Asia is a crucial link in the global food supply chain, and there are opportunities for development in the area of food safety in line with the GFSI vision locally, regionally, and around the world." 

Ms Discours-Buhot also highlighted how the tool is particularly useful for developing markets. “We are excited about the immense potential for continued impact in Asia as the GFSI Global Markets Programme is specifically designed for developing food safety actors. The goal is clear: to take into account all actors of the food industry, and to provide an entry point for small and less developed food companies to work towards improved food safety and market access.”

Left to right: Noraini Binti Dato' Mahd Othman, Senior Director, Malaysian Ministry of Health; Véronique Discours-Buhot, Global Food Safety Initiative; Petra Wissenburg, GFSI Board Member and Director, Food Safety External Affairs & Strategic Projects, Danone Group at the 2015 Global Food Safety Conference 

The opportunity is clearly supported by the statistics. Currently, according to the Asia Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) SMEs account for more than 97 per cent of all enterprises and employ over half of the workforce across APEC economies. However, as APEC highlights, SMEs only account for 34 per cent or less of direct exports.

Petra Wissenburg, GFSI Board Member and Co-Chair of Food Industry Asia’s Food Safety Steering Group said the tool offers an entry level food safety solution for small, developing companies in local markets, “The programme is designed as a non-certification assessment process of a company's food safety practices which is carried out within a defined time period. The assessments against the basic and intermediate levels are unaccredited as the Global Markets Programme is not a food safety scheme. The final step of the approach is an accredited certification against one of the GFSI recognised schemes. The improved food safety practices in line with the GFSI Global Markets Programme requirements – and ultimately certification – facilitate access to local, regional, and international trade and can help companies to increase sales, profitability and attract investments." 

Ms Wissenburg finished by highlighting the trade growth opportunities for businesses in Asia who might look to participate, “This tool allows suppliers and food manufacturers in Asia to perform self-assessments directly online, generate diagnostic profiles and share these with their partners in the supply chain and auditing organisations. These self-assessments provide a real time snapshot of a company's food safety practices against the GFSI requirements. If a company needs further help, there are a number of organisations that have developed training manuals and courses for suppliers wishing to implement the Global Markets Programme.”

As the voice of the food industry in Asia, FIA works in partnership with the Consumer Goods Forum and its Global Food Safety Initiative to advance food safety standards across the Asia region for the benefit of consumers.

For more information on the new web portal from GFSI and ITC, click here.

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