Gender equality, climate change and technology were key themes in a network that tries to ensure safe trade, according to an annual report.

The Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) aims to improve sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) capacity in developing and least developed countries.

STDF was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Organisation for Animal Health, the World Bank Group, World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“Compliance with SPS requirements is already a major challenge for many developing countries. Climate change is making this even more difficult. Strengthening developing countries’ SPS systems, including capacities to monitor and control new pests and diseases, is more important than ever and will contribute to increased food production and food security,” said Melvin Spreij, head of the STDF.

Project examples
STDF works with government institutions, international organizations and development partners in different sectors to enhance compliance with international food safety, animal and plant health standards and facilitate safe food trade.

The annual report highlights projects such as improving the safety and quality of Sudan’s sesame seeds; enhancing compliance with phytosanitary measures in Uganda’s fruit and vegetable sectors; promoting good agricultural practices in Tajikistan’s honey and apricot value chains; and increasing fish exports from the Solomon Islands.

Stories were shared from Djibouti, India and Tanzania, highlighting results that can be achieved when government authorities and the private sector work together on trade. Ongoing projects include enhancing food safety capacity of the pepper value chain in Jamaica and piloting a voluntary third party assurance (vTPA) program in East Africa.

STDF members also continued learning about the use of data-driven approaches to boost safe trade and accelerate economic growth, including electronic phytosanitary certificates.

Projects help to improve compliance with international standards within and across countries and regions. Some initiatives struggled to catch up on delays made worse by the pandemic. In certain cases, staff turnover caused additional challenges for in-country commitment and political instability was an issue in some parts of West Africa.

Program financing
Eight projects were approved while another 17 are ongoing. Fifteen donors contributed more than $6.5 million in funding. The next deadline to submit project funding proposals is Aug. 11 and these will be considered by STDF in November 2023. Pending initiatives include reducing histamine in tuna in Indonesia and managing aflatoxins in maize in Uganda.

“The STDF is working to create a world where food traded is safe and secure for all, and also to facilitate the compliance of relevant standards by developing countries’ exports,” said Jean-Marie Paugam, WTO Deputy Director-General. 

In May 2023, Germany’s Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture announced a contribution of €150,000 ($165,000) to the STDF.

Bettina Waldmann said: “By helping developing countries tackle sanitary and phytosanitary challenges, we are making a contribution to improving SPS systems and ensuring safe agricultural food trade globally. Building SPS capacity is key to raising food security levels, protecting the environment and securing people’s livelihoods.”

Spreij said the support would benefit producers, traders and governments along global and regional value chains, helping them raise export revenues, income levels and living standards. 

Money will be used to strengthen the ability of small-scale farmers, producers and traders to gain and maintain access to markets for food and agriculture products through SPS projects, knowledge sharing, and monitoring and evaluation of results.

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