How effective is certification for the banana industry?

By August 29, 2018 No Comments
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If you are involved in the the fresh produce business these days you will know how important it is have the right certification. In fact, if you don’t have it its impossible to export to some markets. GlobalGap is essential and most consumers are demanding environmental and organic certificates too.

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) are on-farm practices to ensure food safety, low-impact use of natural resources and the safety of workers. Schemes to certify GAP implementation reflect societal concerns about the safety and sustainability of how our food is produced. The food industry, advocacy groups for the environment, fair prices and consumer choice, together with the participation of governments, have put into place numerous certification frameworks for agricultural products. GAP have also been proposed as a standard to guide policies and actions for the economic, environmental, and social sustainability of agriculture.  

Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing is a new “climate smart” publisher who are building a database of review chapters, each written by a leading expert, which systematically covers the major crop varieties and, at the same time, each step in the value chain for their production, from breeding through to harvest. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has predicted a potential 60% increase in the demand for food by 2050 as the population reaches 9 billion. The work Burleigh Dodds is doing will help researchers in agricultural science address how to feed a growing population in the face of climate change and increasing competition for land, water and other resources. Through their publications they help researchers identify key issues and trends and find their way more quickly to the research most useful to them, allowing them to plan their own research programmes and link up to other research centres to collaborate more effectively

Burleigh Dodds have recently published books on sustainable cultivation of Apples, Tomatoes and Mangoes to name just a few, and will publish Achieving sustainable cultivation of bananas, Edited by Dr Gert Kema and Prof. André Drenth, later this year. 

Dr Gert Kema is Professor in Tropical Plant Pathology at Wageningen University and Research and Senior Scientist at Wageningen Plant Research, Wageningen, The Netherlands. He heads several international banana research programs, including interdisciplinary research projects and public-private-partnerships focusing on Panama disease and black Sigatoka. Dr André Drenth is Principal Research Fellow at the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAFFI), and Professor in Tropical Plant Pathology at the University of Queensland. He is the Head of the Banana Plant Protection Programme set up to protect Australia’s banana industry from the risk of disease. 

The chapter from which this extract is taken (Good agricultural practices: an end or a starting point for more sustainable banana production?) was authored by Charles Staver of Bioversity International (France). Charles’s past experiences include scientist and team leader from 1989 to 2003 for CATIE in Nicaragua on building national capacity for integrated pest management, resident advisor of sustainable agriculture with indigenous communities in Palcazu, Peru. At Bioversity International he has facilitated the updating of the research agenda in pest and disease management, seed systems, production systems, response to climate change and markets. He also collaborated with the regional banana network coordinators to adapt the network strategy to demands for impact and to the use of electronic tools. Charles has led research projects on the contribution of banana processing to rural development carried out in 9 countries, on the improvement of production and marketing of bananas in mixed perennial crop systems in Latin America and on the banana production improvement in Uganda with trees and livestock.

FreshPlaza has been given the opportunity to give our readers a preview of this latest publication. The preview examines the impact of value chain-oriented GAP in banana production and their significance for how banana production can be made more sustainable.

This chapter discusses the justification for GAP certification frameworks in banana production and the range of GAP-related certification schemes used in the sector. Five certification frameworks – GlobalGap, Rainforest, EU Organic, Fair Trade and SA8000 are the focus. GlobalGap, initially EureGAP was founded in 1997 as an independent certification framework to address the issue of brand protection for large international supermarkets in light of consumer concerns about food safety and methods of production. Rainforest/Sustainable Agriculture Network certification began in 1990 as Eco-OK labelling applied only in banana with a focus on reducing the environmental impact of agricultural production.  Organic certification provided market recognition of production techniques not based on synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizer, while FairTrade certification addressed concerns about the equity in commodity supply chains through standards for a fair price and social bonus to smallholder growers organized for group marketing and the right to organize with additional social benefits to workers on larger farms.

The effectiveness of these certification systems is assessed in terms of the broader aims of sustainable agriculture. Are the current GAP certification frameworks an effective checklist of the broader agenda for sustainable banana production and, if not, how can they be redeployed and strengthened for greater effectiveness?  The available evidence suggests that the different certification frameworks have been effective in improving production techniques, labor practices, price negotiation and environmental conservation compared to non-certified production. However, growers have also seen them as a significant and growing bureaucratic burden. Some versions of standards risk being the certification of business as usual.

This assessment is then applied to smallholder organic export banana production, particularly addressing opportunities for ecological intensification with economic benefits.  As it suggests, the formats and checklists which are the basis for GAP certification procedures can be modified and re-oriented to become more useful for enterprise management decisions for individual farms through a Kaizen continuous improvement approach.  Certification criteria could focus not only on specific inputs, but also ecological processes (such as soil ecosystem services). Ways of promoting ecological intensification include optimizing plant density for yield/ha and weed suppression, the use of cover crops to fix nitrogen and suppress weeds, as well as placement of plant residues at harvest to protect the soil surface, provide nutrient recycling and stimulate root activity and soil biology, together with habitat management to promote predators and parasitoids.  Such practices need to be analysed for their compatibility with current labor routines.

This chapter suggests that GAP-based certification frameworks to promote sustainable banana production are an imperfect tool. A hodgepodge of GAP schemes reflects the interests of sub-groups of consumers and supermarkets promoting the reliability of their brand. These are supported by national public sector regulatory agencies which accredit certification agencies and regulate inputs, labor contracts and land use.  These certification standards are both very demanding, depending of the specific scheme, while also being simplistic, potentially reducing a range of local enterprises, with widely-differing challenges, to a globally-oriented series of checklists.  From the perspective of banana growers, marketers and scientists, this chapter suggests a greater engagement with two key elements – science-based inputs to more effective, ecologically-based certification schemes, and tracking and monitoring to achieve more effective certification frameworks which address our unfolding understanding of the basis of sustainable banana production.

To receive your free download of the full chapter, simply visit www.bdspublishing.com/contact-us/ and sign up for our newsletter, selecting “FreshPlaza” from the “journal/magazine” drop-down menu. 

Full details of Achieving sustainable cultivation of bananas Volume 1 can be found at 


This extract has been taken from chapter 8 of Achieving sustainable cultivation of bananas Volume 1, edited by Dr Gert Kema and Prof. André Drenth.

Good agricultural practices: an end or a starting point for more sustainable banana production?

Charles Staver, Bioversity International, France

1 Introduction 
2 Why GAP in banana production?
3 GAP-related certification schemes in banana production
4 Is sustainable banana production being operationalized through GAP certification?
5 Improving GAP for more sustainable banana production
6 Scientific frontiers in bananas and implications for GAPs
7 Conclusion and future trends 
8 Where to look for further information
9 References

Publication date: 7/17/2018
Author: Nichola McGregor
Copyright: www.freshplaza.com