Thailand: Poor safety standards hit food exports to Europe

Exports of fruits and vegetables to the European Union are facing their sunset years as suppliers have failed to upgrade to the required food safety standards, says the Thai Fruit and Vegetable Producer Association.

Vice-president Pathom Taenkam said suppliers are not motivated to improve standards because they can export to other markets such as the Middle East and Asian countries where standards are less strict.

This means that exporters are also unable to guarantee standards because they cannot control the quality of produce from suppliers, he said.

Exports of fruits and vegetables to the EU have consistently declined in the past few years as Europe has stepped up checks for pests in agricultural produce.

Mr Pathom said food suppliers are content to sell to the Thai market in which safety standards are not as high.

There is no guarantee for farmers who produce better-quality food that they will get higher prices given competition from producers in other countries.

"Upgrading standards means more investment is required, but because of so much competition from India and African countries, having better products does not mean that suppliers get better prices," Mr Pathom said.

Volker Stoeppler, food, agriculture and consumer protection counsellor at the German embassy in Bangkok, said over the last few years Thai food exports to the EU have been found to contain pesticides, particularly in eggplant and other vegetables, as well as microbiological contamination in fish products.

He said the lack of traceability mechanisms in Thailand makes it difficult to find the source of the problems in order to solve them.

"Thai exporters must be able to trace the problem all the way back to its source. However, at this moment, traceability is an issue for the country," he said.

Mr Stoeppler said the lack of punishment mechanisms in the system also means there is no incentive for suppliers to increase standards.

Thailand maintains a double standard in food production, with standards for domestic consumption more relaxed than those for exports, he said.

Source: www.bangkokpost.com

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