STC Number - 219

EurepGAP requirements for bananas

Maintained by: European Union
Raised by: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
Supported by: Argentina; Belize; Cuba; Dominica; Ecuador; Egypt; Indonesia; Jamaica; Kenya; Mexico; Peru; South Africa
First date raised: June 2005 G/SPS/R/37/Rev.1, paras. 16-20
Dates subsequently raised: October 2006 (G/SPS/R/43, paras. 40-41)
Number of times subsequently raised: 1
Relevant documents: G/SPS/GEN/766
Products covered: 0803 Bananas, including plantains, fresh or dried.
Primary subject keyword: Food safety
Keywords: Control, Inspection and Approval Procedures; Food safety; Human health; Private standards; Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT)
Status: Not reported
Solution:
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2005, St. Vincent and the Grenadines reported that, as part of the African Caribbean and Pacific group of countries, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had benefited significantly from the assistance provided by the European Communities for the exports of bananas and other fresh agricultural produce to the EC market. However, the Eurep/Gap certification, introduced in 1997, had now been made a condition for continued trade between St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United Kingdom's supermarkets. In St. Vincent and the Grenadines' view, SPS measures were to be introduced by governments and not private entities or non-governmental organizations. Some of the measures dealt with in the Eurep/Gap certification programme were clearly within the scope of the SPS Agreement. St. Vincent and the Grenadines therefore enquired if these measures were part of the EC general food law or if they were private entity requirements.

Jamaica indicated that it was experiencing similar problems with the Eurep/Gap requirements for fresh fruit and vegetable entry into the European Communities. Since a reading of the EC food and feed regulation indicated that the Eurep/Gap requirements were private sector requirements, Jamaica asked what recourse was available to exporting countries.

The European Communities clarified that Eurep/Gap was not an EC body nor one of its member States. It was a private sector consortium representing the interests of major retailers. In no case could Eurep/Gap requirements be presented as EC requirements. Even if these standards, in certain cases, exceeded the requirements of EC SPS standards, the EC could not object to them as they did not conflict with EC legislation. This issue was one the EC was willing to discuss at the information seminar to be held on 19 July 2005 in Brussels. The representative of the European Communities encouraged developing countries, particularly LDCs, to discuss this issue with non-governmental organizations since, in many respects, the Eurep/Gap requirements reflected their concerns. The current accumulation of such standards constituted an opportunity to emphasize the value of official standards, since private standards were often much more demanding.

Peru enquired about the interpretation of Article 13 of the SPS Agreement which referred to its implementation by, inter alia, non-governmental entities within the territory of the Member. The representative of Ecuador noted that, as an exporting country, Ecuador was following the impact of this issue upon trade towards the European Communities. The representative of Mexico indicated that SPS measures as defined in Annex A were the core of the SPS Agreement. It was only when these measures were adopted by governmental authorities that a Member had the obligation to ensure that governmental and non-governmental entities involved were implementing them properly, as provided for in Article 13. Annex 3 of the TBT Agreement established a code of good practice for non-governmental standard-setting institutions developing food quality standards. This code had been accepted by many of these organizations. He suggested that it could be interesting for the SPS Committee to take a look at these provisions of the TBT Agreement before reaching any conclusion on the issue.

Argentina recalled that the international community had generated international agreements to ensure that trade standards were not unnecessarily stringent so as to act as barriers to international trade, and countries had devoted time and financial and human resources to attend all the international meetings where standards were discussed, developed and implemented. If the private sector was going to have unnecessarily restrictive standards affecting trade, and countries had no forum in which to advocate some rationalization of these standards, twenty years of discussions in international fora would have been wasted. The representative of Argentina was convinced that the rational and legal aspects of these kinds of regulations had to be addressed.

In October 2006, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines indicated that their concerns with respect to the EurepGAP issue remained the same, even after the informal session held before the meeting to explain the issue of private standards. The cost implications of these private standards, which were often of greater rigidity than the internationally set standards were very huge, especially for small farmers in small and vulnerable economies.

Argentina, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Indonesia, Kenya and South Africa shared the concerns of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and suggested that the issue of private and commercial standards in general should be included on the agenda of upcoming SPS Committee meetings.