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Seminar On Certification For Small Scale Aquaculture

Crustaceans Sustainability +2 more

THAILAND - Over the last few years there has been a surge of interest in the development of certification standards for aquaculture products. Many certification schemes have been established addressing a diverse range of issues surrounding aquaculture production including environmental integrity, food safety and quality, social responsibility, animal health and welfare and other issues such as organic aquaculture.

The implementation of certification standards in Asian aquaculture is confounded by the fact that the majority of farms are small scale holdings. There are a very large number of them, they are organised very loosely or not at all and farmers are for the most part poor. This is the context in which aquaculture certification must be implemented.

Individual certification is very difficult to implement in the region due to the practicalities of dealing with large number of small scale farmers and their limited capacity to bear associated costs. Increasingly, Governments are encouraging group-based management approaches to empower small scale producers to overcome these issues.

FAO and the Thai Department of Fisheries have conducted a joint project on Certification for Small Scale Aquaculture in Thailand. The project aimed to help small scale farmers implement certification through a group approach, to enhance their market access and improve their environmental, social and economic sustainability. Working in a group reduces the cost of certification for individual farmers, improves market access and assists farmers to move up in the value chain.

The project initially conducted public consultations amongst all players in the supply chain to gather views on existing certification systems, their practicality, credibility, implementation status and constraints. Consultations were also held with selected groups of small scale farmers to ensure that their opportunities and constraints were given priority consideration. The feedback was used to develop recommendations on improving certification systems for aquaculture in Thailand. The project also convened training in group certification for small scale farmers, for farmers, government officers and NGOs involved in this activity.

The development of a group-based aquaculture certification scheme was piloted with shrimp farmers in Chantaburi and Trang provinces and tilapia in Chonburi and Petchaburi provinces. The project assisted farmers to register their group with the government, to establish governance and record keeping systems, and to establish an internal control system in order to facilitate compliance with required production standards and traceability.

A Standard Farming Manual was prepared by each group describing the farming practices required of group members. Groups held crop planning meetings before commencement of the crop cycle, and held monthly meetings during grow out to discuss production issues and provide mutual technical support. Groups typically entered into group contracts for purchase of inputs such as seed and feed in order to benefit from bulk order discounts.

Overall the groups have been very positive in their responses and comments on the project, and there has been a marked improvement in farming practices as a result of the group approach, standardisation and training.

As the project is nearing completion, a regional seminar was held in Bangkok from 15-16 September to share the experiences of Thailand more widely with countries within ASEAN and with other organisations that are that working on certification and related trade issues for small-scale aquaculture. Around 50 people attended the seminar, including representatives from the governments in the region, representatives of Thai shrimp producers, and private-sector organisations with an interest in certification such as Fairtrade, TV NORD and others.

Project personnel gave presentations on the experiences gained in the establishment and certification of farmer groups; development of traceability and GIS systems to support certification and analysis of the Thai national certification system.

This was followed by a general discussion on a report commissioned by the project examining the issue of harmonising the Thai system with the FAO Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification; and progress in developing an ASEAN standard for shrimp certification and scaling up strategies.

As the current proliferation of certification standards has caused fragmentation and confusion in the industry, participants also discussed the concept of developing a system for benchmarking aquaculture certification standards against the FAO Guidelines on Aquaculture Certification as a means to establishing equivalence between different certification standards.

The project was funded by FAO through a Technical Cooperation Programme facility. A website is in development based on the outcomes of the project, including online traceability database will be available in due course.