South African growers who have long had to bear the high cost of a whole range of audits in their efforts to comply with the standards of retailers abroad, may finally be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel.
Hortgro has advised exporters and growers to engage with their receivers as a matter of urgency and ensure them that their requirements (in terms of social auditing) can be met via the Sustainability Initiative of South Africa (SIZA).
This follows confirmation that the GlobalGAP Risk Assessment on Social Practices (GRASP), has formally recommended that retailers should also accept other social standards, including SIZA.
SIZA and GlobalGAP met recently to discuss how SIZA producers could demonstrate compliance to GRASP requirements and avoid potential duplication of audits. The objective was to agree a solution relating to both an interim or trial period for 2016/17, and a more permanent agreement for the longer term post 2017.
“For 2017, a 'hand system' will be utilised as a pilot to exchange information from SIZA to GRASP,” says Jacques du Preez, general manager for trade & markets at Hortgro. “The idea is to create an automated interface for future years through which direct visibility could be provided for importers and retailers.”
GRASP was developed to assess social practices on the farm and consist of 11 questions which can be added to the annual GlobalGAP audit. It was developed together with GIZ (previously known as GTZ), Coop, Edeka, Lidl, Metro AG and Migros in an open stakeholder dialogue with pilots in five countries.
SIZA has been developed in South Africa in an effort to establish a general South African standard which could be internationally accepted and which would end the pressure and cost of a multitude of audits they have to comply with each year.
SIZA and GlobalGAP agreed in principle that an interface would be created to import information from the SIZA platform to the GlobalGAP database, which will comply with the immediate retailer requirements and will prevent growers from having to do both a SIZA and a GRASP audit. Information from SIZA members will therefore be transferred to the GlobalGAP database on the request of the producer or exporter.
A SIZA spokesperson previously said that it awaiting confirmation from GlobalGAP on technical detail and related issues to start developing the interface. “The aim was to finish the documentation and the initial development by the end of September 2016 and SIZA will engage early in 2017 regarding a more permanent solution.
While the latest news is a major breakthrough for the harmonisation of social standards, SIZA is also still engaging with the South African industry to increase its footprint.
“SIZA is in the process of becoming a multi-sector entity and we would like all agricultural commodities to benchmark against the labour law by registering on the SIZA platform and completing the self-assessment questionnaire,” commented a spokesperson.
At present SIZA has 453 members in the South African citrus industry, 711 in the topfruit and stonefruit sector, 270 table grape members, 38 vegetable producers, ten in potato production, 17 in flowers and 57 in alternative fruit.