By Christiaan Mostert and Danie Jordaan (University of Pretoria), Fiona Smith (University of Leeds)
August 11, 2023

The development of the legal and compliance environment for food and agriculture in eastern and southern Africa has been underpinned by increasingly strict food safety and food quality standards, in both the Global North and Global South.  Regulatory frameworks are important tools in food systems for outlining food safety and quality requirements for commodities and signaling the same to markets and consumers. They offer guidance and aid-compliance for food producers and processors with regards to basic or minimum requirements, which are often mandated by national governments.

The development and implementation of food safety and food quality regulations and laws may be at different levels of maturity across commodities, sectors and countries. The export environment and export market opportunities can play an important role in incentivising and catalysing regulatory development. If a surplus-producing country wishes to export to a country with stringent food safety and quality rules than theirs, these  rules will usually require the exporting country to adhere to the food safety and quality standards of the importing country. Private companies may also be incentivized to go beyond minimum quality and safety standards if this offers a profitable point of differentiation from their competitors on the market. Private companies may also introduce their own food safety and quality standards to guarantee the safety and quality of produce coming into their supply chain. In this regard, food safety and quality can represent both significant barriers to and opportunities for market development, particularly in contexts where regulatory frameworks are not yet mature.

In the FoSTA-Health project, we consider the different developmental pathways of food, food safety and food quality regulations in a broad sense-- from the most basic statutory requirements, up to integrated national government, regional and global standards, and private mechanisms for quality and safety standards and compliance. South Africa and Tanzania are at different stages in the development of their regulatory frameworks. South Africa has a long history of exporting agricultural products to markets that require compliance with high food quality and safety standards, particularly those set in Europe.

Fruit exports such as citrus are a good case in point. South African producers are very well established, experienced and comfortable with the required procedures to export successfully and the country has a range of mechanisms in place to meet these specific needs. Conversely, in Tanzania, where engagement in export markets for fresh fruits and vegetables is more emergent, the frameworks around food safety and quality are rapidly developing in response to market opportunities.

Over the coming years (2022-26), FoSTA-Health research will trace and demonstrate the pathways in which these frameworks are developed and executed. The learnings will be relevant to the transformation and development of food systems as is currently happening more broadly on the African continent.

 (Image Courtesy Jen Gunter on Unsplash)

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