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
Date reported as resolved:

Extracts from SPS Committee meeting summary reports

In June 2005, St. Vincent and the Grenadines reported that EurepGap certification, introduced in 1997, had now been made a condition for continued trade into UK supermarkets. Some of the measures in the EurepGap certification programme were clearly within the scope of the SPS Agreement. Jamaica indicated similar problems with EurepGap 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 EurepGap was a private sector consortium representing the interests of major retailers. Even if these standards, in certain cases, exceeded the requirements of EC SPS standards, the European Commission could not object to them as they did not conflict with EC legislation. The European Communities encouraged developing country Members, and particularly least-developed country Members, to discuss this issue with non-governmental organizations since, in many respects, the EurepGap requirements reflected their concerns.
Peru recalled that Article 13 of the SPS Agreement referred to implementation by non-governmental entities within the territory of the Member. Ecuador noted concerns regarding the impact of this issue on trade towards the European Communities. Mexico indicated that it was only when SPS 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. Mexico suggested that the SPS Committee examine these provisions of the TBT Agreement before reaching any conclusion on the issue.
Argentina noted that international agreements existed to ensure that SPS measures were not unnecessarily stringent so as to act as barriers to international trade, and countries had devoted substantial resources to participate in standards development and implementation. If the private sector adopted unnecessarily restrictive standards affecting trade, and countries had no forum in which to advocate rationalization of these standards, twenty years of discussions in international fora would have been wasted. Argentina argued 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.