As the ASEAN Economic Community is approaching, the grouping has come up with many agreements to facilitate trading within the region and beyond. The standard for food security is also an important step for the region to move forwards to being world’s top food producer.
ASEAN, in 2006, set up the ASEAN Good Agricultural Practices for fresh fruit and vegetables, known as GAP, as a standard practice for farmers and transporters to follow. The GAP is considered a step forward for the improvement of regional producers, as it prevents risks associated with production, harvesting, and post-harvest handling of fresh produce.
The GAP has been designed under four modules: food safety, environmental management, worker health and safety, and produce quality. Once all farmers and distributors follow the procedures, consumers will be guaranteed of the food quality and their own safety. This practice will earn trusts from European and US importers in terms of food standards in ASEAN.
Besides, farmers must also follow the Maximum Residue Limits (MRL), which is the maximum amount of chemical allowed in fruit and vegetables for sale. Fruit such as mango, pineapple, durian, papaya, grapefruit, and rambutan also have their own ASEAN quality standard to make sure that they are suitable for consumption after going through all the preparation and packaging.
Additionally, livestock farmers must also abide by standards for animal vaccines and the criteria for accreditation of livestock establishments, which have been endorsed for all ASEAN farmers.
In other areas, ASEAN is strengthening its genetically modified food testing network, developing guidelines on good management practices for shrimp, developing a code of conduct for responsible fisheries, and implementing the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) in the fish production and seafood products.
In 2004, the ASEAN Food Safety Network was established as a platform for ASEAN officials to exchange information on food safety.
As for Thailand, Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Yukol Limlamthong has said Thailand’s agro industry is now ready for the formation of ASEAN Economic community (AEC), given Thai agricultural products are of higher standard when compared to those of other countries; in addition, over 200 Thai agricultural products have already been standardized.
According to the minister, the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standards (ACFS) has been promoting the Thai products in the ASEAN market, relying on their quality to set the benchmark for this region. He also pointed out that Thailand stands to enjoy the benefits of lower production cost than many other nations, which will help Thai exporters compete with their counterparts in the ASEAN market.