“Toward food security and food safety for all” by Edgar Valenzuela, Communications and Knowledge Management Specialist and Lourdes Adriano, CASP2 Team LeaderDecember 22, 2016
Sampran Riverside Resort Hotel in Nakhon Pathom is not your ordinary tourist hotel. For one it serves organic food – sought after by tourists and the growing middle class. The organic agriculture products are supplied by farmers who are supported by the hotel with technical expertise from the government and research institutes. Its dynamic and creative Managing Director, Khun Arrut Navaraj, a strong believer that Thais should have secure access to safe nutritious food, is actively linking the farmers to other hotels, restaurants, and large food events in Bangkok. On the hotel premises, there is an established weekend market where the organic farmers sell directly to consumers.
Today the quest for joining food security and food safety is gaining momentum. Thailand is showing the way with the rapid development of organic and chemical–reduced agro-based value chains to supply at scale: not just rice, but also nutritious and safe products like fruits, vegetables, coffee, beans, herbs, and organic eggs.
An interesting feature of this development is the use of the participatory guarantee system (PGS). It is a social network tool for grouping farmers to produce organic crops applying climate-friendly agriculture practices and peer-agreed standardized quality of produce. It is a low-cost alternative to the high costs of obtaining third party certification for organic products. It is an effective way of expanding small-scale farmers’ access to markets, and provides a more inclusive approach to contract farming.
The Asian Development Bank and the Land Development Department, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives have signed a Letter of Agreement to pilot test the PGS with farmers in partnership with the Thai Organic Agriculture Foundation (TOAF), and with the expertise of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM). Other private sector groups such as the Lemon Farm, a health food store, has started the IFOAM PGS approach in Mae Hong Sorn. In just over a year, it has expanded its PGS groups to nearly 10 farmer groups across the country. Lemon Farm is now recognized for its leadership in private sector led PGS organic growth in the country. Thailand is planning to scale up the use of PGS in the next few years. The Thai Organic Agriculture Foundation has also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Central Food Retail Company (Tops Supermarket) to support the development of organic farming using PGS in the country.
Thailand is not alone. The other countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion – Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China (specifically Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam are all piloting PGS and climate-friendly agriculture practices. They are showing the way to growing safe and environment-friendly agriculture products and developing their value chains.
The GMS hopes to become the platform of the Southeast Asia Region for achieving food security and food safety in an inclusive and environment-friendly manner.
The 21st GMS Ministerial Meeting will be held in Chiang Rai on 1 December 2016. This meeting will note that the GMS Ministries of Agriculture are developing a GMS Strategy and Action Plan on Value Chain development for the next five years. This Strategy will help boost the GMS efforts of connecting food security and food safety for the benefit of ASEAN members and the global community.