Regional Economic Integration Support (REIS) Programme, funded by the European Union, has been a catalyst for the rapid development of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) management in the region over the past fifteen months. Aimed at facilitating the improvement of trade in agricultural commodities within the region and internationally, fostering compliance with regional and international multilateral trade agreements and creating awareness of SPS measures amongst farmers and agro-food processors; the Programme is supporting meetings of the regional SPS Coordinating Committee (SADC SPS CC), the Livestock Technical Committee (LTC), the Plant Protection Technical Committee (PPTC) and the Food Safety Technical Committee (FSTC); and it is also facilitating workshops to raise awareness on SPS issues amongst food and agriculture stakeholders.
SADC’s approach to SPS management is based on provisions of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on the Application of SPS measures (or the ‘WTO SPS Agreement’ for short) which are mirrored in the SPS Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade.
The objectives of the SPS Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade are:
1. To facilitate the protection of human, animal or plant life or health in the territory of Member States (MSs);
2. To enhance the MSs’ implementation of the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures;
3. To enhance technical capacity to implement and monitor SPS measures including promoting greater use of international standards and other matters concerning SPS;
4. To provide a regional forum for addressing sanitary and phytosanitary matters, and
5. To provide a regional forum for resolving trade related sanitary or phytosanitary issues.
Although the SPS Annex was adopted by SADC Ministers of Trade and Industry in 2008, its full implementation is only now being realized through the establishment and capacitation of the relevant regional committees.
The REIS programme has enabled the regional SPS structures to consolidate and formulate work programmes aimed at solving SPS challenges in the region.
At their last meeting held in Gaborone on 24-25 June 2014, the PPTC and FSTC created ‘experts sub-committees’ to deal with specific areas of SPS concerns arising in the region. In the area of food safety the sub-committees are:
1. Sub-committee 1 on Good Manufacturing Practice(GMP), Certification, Policy, Standards, Legislation and Notification;
2. Sub-committee 2 on Epidemiology, Risk Analysis, and Laboratory testing; and
3. Sub-committee 3 on Capacity Building and Information, Education and Communication (IEC).
In the area of plant
protection the sub-committees are:
1. Laboratory and Pest diagnostics;
2. Surveillance and Pest Risk Analysis;
3. Plant Health Inspection; and
One of the issues singled out for action by expert sub-committees of both technical committees is the development of “Rapid Alert Systems”. In the case of food safety the rapid alert system will enable each MS to be able to quickly notify relevant authorities in other MSs whenever undesirable agro-products enter the region, or when there is a possibility of products condemned in one MS being transported to another MS.
From a plant protection perspective the system would allow for advance warning of any pest outbreak threatening crops for example. Another FSTC expert sub-committee will investigate how recognition can be accorded to select accredited laboratories within the region so that they act as regional reference laboratories in areas of testing relevant to SPS.
To date over a hundred regional farmers and agro-product exporters have participated in REIS organized organised awareness workshops and SPS training sessions. In many cases the participants are drawn from national farming unions who go back and share the knowledge with their members.
More than 30 technical officers responsible for facilitation of trade in agro-food products (e.g. inspectors and food laboratory technicians) have been trained so that when they implement SPS measures they do so in line with international norms. It is expected that by the end of the REIS programme compliance with SPS measures and use of standards will have improved significantly in the region leading to increased trade in safer agro-products regionally and internationally.
The SADC SPS CC meetings have also become a forum for regional discussions on issues coming up for consideration at international standards setting bodies like the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), the International Plant Protection Committee (IPPC) and CODEX Alimentarius, as well as at the WTO SPS Committee.