Government, horticulture industry collaborate to maintain agricultural export competitiveness amidst new international regulations - EHPEA

Government, horticulture industry collaborate to maintain agricultural export competitiveness amidst new international regulations

The government and private sectors are undertaking various measures to guarantee the safety of agricultural commodity exports subject to stringent rules and regulations from receiving countries.

According to the horticulture industry, Ethiopian exporters and producers are in danger due to new regulations imposed by international regulatory authorities.

As a result, the government and industry participants are working hard to ensure that Ethiopian agricultural products, the main source of hard currency for the nation, continue to be exported.

Empowering the inspection facility prior to export is one of the most recent efforts toward this goal.

At a ceremony held on Thursday, June 27, at the Ethiopian Horticulture Producer and Exporters Association (EHPEA) head office, the Ethiopian Agricultural Authority (EAA) received several phytosanitary inspection tools. 

The equipment has been supplied to protect the safety of export goods, according to Tewodros Zewdie, Executive Director of EHPEA, in order to professionalize the inspection branch at Bole International Airport, the final point of departure for agricultural export products.

Tewodros said, “We have given over quarantine equipment, which our members financed, in accordance with the authority’s request. This will increase EAA’s capacity and boost export competitiveness.”

EHPEA claims that during the last two years, the association has collaborated with the government in several areas to guarantee the competitiveness of Ethiopia’s horticultural sector.

In order to maintain the sector’s competitiveness after the European Union Commission’s actions against the False Codling Moth (FCM), EHPEA and EAA have implemented several efforts, including five awareness-raising events.

Over 20,000 people have received training on the identification and management of FCM, and a national protocol has been developed in this area.

Tewodros stated, “The interception has decreased to eight in 2023 from 23 in 2022 because of this initiative. Since the requirement is zero tolerance, more efforts should be accelerated on a similar basis.”

“Our association, in collaboration with the farms and EAA, has successfully resolved Xylella fastidiosa bacterium cases that pose a challenge to cutting farms’ business,” he noted.

“Phytosanitary measures are essential to the horticultural industry’s competitiveness, and new EU regulations require more work in this area to guarantee the sector’s export,” he continued.

Global trade has become extremely difficult in the current situation due to tight emerging laws, according to Wondale Habtamu, Deputy Director of EAA and Head of the Ethiopian National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPO). “Most people know the European regulations, which are a subset of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the intergovernmental treaty that aims to protect the world’s plants, agricultural products, and natural resources from plant pests,” Wondale said.

The IPPC develops, adopts, and promotes the application of International Phytosanitary Measures (ISPMs) as the main tool to safeguard global food security, facilitate safe trade, and protect the environment.

“We have problems with FCM pests in relation to flower production and export,” he stated.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) conducted research that designated FCM as a quarantine pest for the continent, meaning that agricultural products imported into Europe need to be closely inspected.

He praised the fact that “the interception in Ethiopia has significantly declined in this budget year due to EHPEA’s intensive work with growers, while interceptions have remained static or drastically increased in other African countries.”

The Deputy Director General claims that only 25% of export commodities from Ethiopia and Kenya are inspected compared to 100% in South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda.

When the inspection rate climbs, it indicates that producers and exporters who bear the inspection costs would have to pay more.

The association and producers provided intensive training, which is credited with Ethiopia’s success since “training 20,000 farm employees is not an easy task.”

In addition, he mentioned that a number of projects had been completed, such as creating a protocol and submitting it to the UN and EU.

According to Wondale, “EHPEA and its members have now filled the gap in empowering the inspection effort at Bole International Airport, and the operational standards at the inspection site have also been developed with the association’s support.”

“When Xylella fastidiosa became an issue, the association supported the Xylella molecular test that was delivered to the EU,” he remembered, highlighting the association’s high level of engagement for the sector’s development.

According to him, the authority’s operations at Bole International Airport heavily depend on the instruments that the growers provided through their association.

“Since an error at Bole could damage the nation’s reputation, these capacity-boosting instruments will increase the accuracy of the inspection,” he said to Capital.

He continued, saying that “it will also enhance Ethiopia’s competitiveness” and that “it will give the European regulators an idea that Ethiopia is working strongly at every juncture point to maintain the safety of export items.”

“To maintain our reputation with the recipient countries, we are now rejecting export items that do not pass the inspection at Bole Airport before they fail at the destination.”

Experts in the field argue that Ethiopia’s interests will not have room in EU or other international legislation due to these safety cases being dynamic.”For example, the FCM pest has no effect in Ethiopia, but it will alter plant morphology when it travels to Europe. As a result, the EU will not negotiate on the matter because it would impact their biodiversity. Therefore, we have recognized the situation and established guidelines for how we will carry on with the trade,” they stated.

Wondale adds, “As a result, we have created a protocol and offer technical assistance to both commercial farms and small-scale farmers.” The government is also working with its European allies on a few of the EU’s Acts.

For example, the Forest Act failed to take into account the fact that Ethiopia grows its Arabica coffee inside forests or under tree cover; similarly, the Chemical Act has to take into account the climatic situation of tropical areas.

He gave Ethiopian elites advice on international treaties, regulations, and decrees that they should be aware of and follow for the good of their nation.

The Bole inspection facility, which was formerly involved in physical examination, has been modernized to offer technology-based services that meet international standards.

EAA administers about 50 inspection sites located across the country.

By Muluken Yewondwossen, Photo by Anteneh Aklilu

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