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Inspections on fresh produce exports to African countries – a valid quality concern or non-tariff barrier?


Inspections on fresh produce exports to African countries – a valid quality concern or non-tariff barrier?

Willemien Viljoen, tralac Researcher, discusses legislative requirements regarding inspection of fresh produce exports from South Africa

On 24 February 2015 the South African Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) announced an inspection advisory in accordance with the Agricultural Product Standards Act, No 119 of 1990 (available here). In terms of the advisory, inspections for fresh fruit and vegetables, feed products and grain and grain products intended for export to African countries will be in effect as of 1 April 2015 (download the advisory here). These inspections are only applicable to consignments of 20 kilograms or more of fresh fruit, vegetables, feed products, grains and grain products and to consignments of 10 kilograms or more of ornamental foliage and flowers. According to the advisory no African destination market will be excluded from inspections by the Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB).

Article 15 of the Agricultural Product Standards Act governs the power of the Minister to make regulations in terms of any matter covered by the Act. Accordingly various regulations and amendments have been enacted to govern the trade and domestic production of agricultural products. The most recent amended regulations regarding the control of the export of fresh fruits were published in October 2014 (download here), of cut flowers and ornamental foliage in November 2014 (download) and of fresh vegetables (download), feed products (download) and grains (download) in December 2014. These repeal previous regulations applicable to the export of the various agricultural products. Most of these regulations came into effect in 1991 and have not been amended since.

The newly amended regulations contain identical provisions regarding the prohibition of export and presentation of products for inspection. Accordingly consignments over 20 kilograms (in the case of fruit, vegetables, feed products and grain and grain products) and 10 kilograms (in the case of fresh flowers and ornamental foliage) need to be approved and inspected and/or analysed after which an export certificate will be issued. These provisions in the regulations are similar to the inspection advisory published in February 2015. However, there are two key differences. The regulations make no distinction between exports to African countries and exports to the rest of the world. The inspection advisory, however, only applies to exports to all African countries. The regulations also came into effect on the respective dates of publication, while the inspection advisory states that inspections and testing of African exports only comes into effect on 1 April 2015.

According to the PPECB it is mandated by DAFF to deliver end-point inspections to approve exports to ensure the quality of the products. These inspections are based on export standards and requirements, export regulations and import requirements of foreign markets. The PPECB states that the regulations governing exports are usually contained in agreements between South African and other countries. Thus if a product is approved as ready for export it indicates that at least the minimum requirements agreed upon between the countries  have been met. This does not resolve the peculiarity of the inspection advisory. The regulations do not discriminate against exports to different destination markets. This means that all products covered by the regulations need to comply with the requirements prior to exports, irrespective of the final destination of the consignment. In this case African exports also had to comply with the inspection and testing requirements of the regulations from the day of commencement which raises questions regarding the purpose of the inspection advisory being only applicable to exports to African countries.

However, the date of commencement of the regulations vis-à-vis the inspection advisory differs. Why does the date of implementation differentiate between export markets? Are the regulations not applicable to African exports prior to 1 April 2015? If this is the case, some puzzling questions arise regarding the origin of and the rationale behind the inspection requirement in the inspection advisory:

  1. Have concerns recently been raised about the quality of products exported?

  2. Are we looking at the erosion of the competitive advantage of South African products on regional markets through an increase in the cost of exporting?

  3. How will these regulations impact small and medium enterprises only exporting to African markets due to prohibitive standards and technical requirements in place in markets further a field?

  4. Is this the latest addition to the long list of barriers to trade already contributing the high cost of doing business in the region?


Sources: DAFF (www.daff.gov.za); PPECB (www.ppecb.com)


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