IS YOUR SALAD GAP CERTIFIED?
I was just declared by my doctor to be a diabetic patient a month before my trip to Thailand. I was dismayed and depressed which made me conscious of my nutrient intake.
While I went to Thailand for some studies I never miss to experience their culture most especially their food. One thing that hit me most was their fresh fruits. I am not sure if you will agree with me, but I discovered that most Thai fruits are incredibly sweet. With the preference of others, it may seem strange, but they add a delightful extra dimension. Well, I can’t tell if there was a difference to the taste of the Thai veggies as compared to ours.
While I am a sweet lover, I restrained myself from cakes and pastries. Also, I didn’t take any rice for almost a month on that visit. Rather, I just content myself with vegetables, salads, and fruits which are abundant at the place.
But wait, there’s more than just eating fresh fruits and vegetables to remain healthy. Have you ever asked if your salad is free from any chemical, biological and physical contamination?
An Overview of the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Standard
It is observed that fresh vegetables comprise a huge portion of the typical Thai and Vietnamese diet. With every crunch of a spring roll, a Thai national, or a Vietnamese is almost always certain that his julienned carrots, lettuce, and herbs come from a source that he trusts.
What is the basis of his trust? In Thailand, and in Vietnam, most of the farms are audited so they abide by clean, safe, environmentally sound agricultural practices, and are certified for it. The certified farm number to over a hundred thousand in each of these two countries.
This stamp of safety and genuine freshness is called the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Certification, a standard promoted by the ASEAN, unanimously recognized globally, and is an export requirement.
Out of the millions of big and small farms in the Philippines, only 39 farms are GAP-Certified, and these are not mostly vegetable farms, but large mango, banana, corn, and root crop plantations that are for export.
It means that even though an early morning stroll in the local wet markets may give a buyer fresh-looking, vibrant, newly-picked salad ingredients, he will most likely remain a stranger to the history of these vegetables: where they were grown, who or what touched them, or what chemical residue remains unseen on their skin.
To address these health and food safety concerns, fruit and vegetable farms are urged by the Department of Agriculture to be GAP-certified, whether these farms are conventional or organic. The Philippine National Standard for GAP Certification is the Code of Good Agricultural Practices For Fruit and Vegetable Farming. This document issued by the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Products Standards (BAFPS) is “basically harmonized with the ASEAN GAP, and other internationally existing GAP standards (i.e. EUREPGAP, Freshcare of Australia, etc.).”
GAP-Certified Negros Farms
Negros is fortunate to have three (3) farmers organizations that are GAP-certified; that is, the fruits and vegetables supplied by the members of these three organizations are guaranteed clean, free from microbial or chemical residue, and safe.
Patag Farmers Integrated Social Forestry Association(PAFISPA) in Silay, Bukidnon Organic Farmers Association (BOFA) and Iliranan Tribal Council (ITC) in San Carlos City are the first small farmer groups in the country to be issued GAP certification.
A farm that applies for a GAP Certification is audited not only in the quality of their produce but in all aspects of farming. The GAP standard requires a scrutiny of the history of the farm site and its prior use (was it a dump site, a mine tailings site or is one nearby that may pose hazards and contamination?); the type of soil, and its compatibility with crops and seed sources; the judicious use of pesticides and fertilizers, whether chemical or organic; the sources of potable water for irrigation and washing of crops; the harvest and post-handling procedures; the health and hygiene of the farmer and handlers, and other factors. Aside from scrutiny, the GAP standard also requires systems to be set in place: sanitary facilities, safe storage areas, post-harvest infrastructure, a paper trail for traceability, among others. GAP certification is free.
Food Safety and Food Security in AFTA
For small farmers, the GAP Certification is a tedious process. But a program pioneered by AFOS Foundation for Entrepreneurial Development Cooperation, a German NGO, has devoted time, expertise and resources to help these Negrense farmers to be GAP-certified.
The OURFood Program, a partnership between AFOS and the Association of Negros Producers (ANP), currently helps farmers’ organizations in the Visayas. OURFood stands for “Optimizing and Upscaling Roles in the Food Supply Chain.” Specifically, OURFood assists farmers through training, qualification, and market linkages.
OURFood was developed to help farmers, food entrepreneurs, and the general public become more conscious about food safety, says Don Traje, Technical Coordinator for Agriculture of OURFood. The program also aims to help firm up food security, seeing that the enormous potential of agriculture in the Philippines is eclipsed by a large number of fresh fruits and vegetables that institutional buyers continue to import, as reported by the Philippine Retailers’ Association. Before this economic eclipse gets darker at the onset of the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement, OURFood steps in.
The OurFOOD Program and ANP
The local implementing partner of OURFood is the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) which holds a regular farmer’s market at the Negros Showroom on Lacson Street every Tuesday and Friday. Only GAP-certified vegetables are sold here, and so it has acquired a steady following of health-conscious buyers. The GAP-certified vegetables are sold at competitive prices comparable to major public markets, confirms Marivic Rio, ANP / OURFood Overall Coordinator for Negros Occidental.
One of the GAP-certified farmers selling at ANP is Andrew Pelomio. He plants high-value crops in Barangay Codcod, San Carlos City. Before he was trained in GAP, Andrew said he would apply fertilizers and pesticides — urea, DDT, and other toxic products – indiscriminately on rows of cauliflower, broccoli, and lettuce. This is a farmer’s typical response to pests and diseases. “Dako gid ang pasalamat ko sa OURFood kag sa GAP kay subong, nag menos na ang gastos ko sa farm inputs (I am very grateful to OURFood, and to GAP, because now I spend less on farm inputs),” says Andrew.
OURFood ensures that a farmer is trained, understands food safety and its impact on the environment, and strictly complies. In organic farming, GAP also sees to it that natural fertilizers like chicken dung are well decomposed to ensure that the risk of salmonella and E.coli are eliminated. For smallhold farms, the Bureau of Agriculture and Fishery Product Standards (BAFPS) has established an internal control system which ensures that farmers’ organizations adhere to the principles of GAP
The ANP-OURFood Program commits to support 200 more small farmers in high-value crops to qualify for GAP as it expands to three (3) more areas in Talisay City, Bago City, and Murcia.
GAP complements Organic Farming
GAP is a result not only of farming science but most importantly, of decades of farming experiences. The journey from conventional farming to organic farming is difficult and capital-intensive. What GAP does instead is to reduce the conventional farm’s dependence on inorganic inputs. In essence, GAP gently pushes the shift from conventional to organic so that the farm becomes sustainable.
GAP standards assure safe and quality crops to public health. GAP requires proofs and Pieces of evidence. ALL PRACTICES ARE EVIDENCE BASED AND TESTED BY INDEPENDENT LABORATORIES TO CHECK FOR COMPLIANCE.
Having GAP certified farms will further boost Negros’s position as an organic capital of the Philippines.
For more information about the program you may contact: