GlobalGAP has reported considerable demand from retailers for it to introduce audits and certification that covers environmental issues such as water management and biodiversity.

Speaking at the Global Berry Congress in Rotterdam, the certification body’s Ben Horsbrugh said GlobalGAP was considering developing tools to help growers understand the water risks they face and share best practice with them.

“We want to make sure it’s actually adding value to the growers,” he stressed. “What we don’t want to do is just offload more and more certification and audit burden onto the farm.

“What some people don’t know about GlobalGAP is that we do quite a lot of capacity building. For example, if you look at the berry sector in Eastern Europe, we have projects with US Aid and GIZ [the German agency for international development] to help growers maybe in Albania, the Balkans.

“I think we’re trying to focus much more on providing value and not just certification solutions.”

Horsbrugh added that in the berry industry packaging seems to be the leading issue for European retailers at present but going forward he thinks the products themselves will be looked at more critically in terms of the sustainability of their production.

“I think water is going to become the big issue because what retailers are concerned with is: Are we aware of the water risks in our supply chains? Do we have critical areas where we have to be aware what risks there might be on the farms? Are farms doing something about that?

“Also coming up is the issue of biodiversity,” he added. “This is a very tricky subject because there’s concern over how we balance the interests of the environment with the interests of production.”

When it comes to packaging, however, Horsbrugh believes it is not GlobalGAP’s responsibility to monitor how produce is packed. “That’s really more of a dialogue between the retailer and the supplier,” he said.