Pomegranates from Uzbekistan are Reaching a New Level Thanks to the International Certification of GLOBALG.A.P.
The sun is the first association that comes to our minds when mentioning fruits from Uzbekistan. It is the warm climate and the sun that, reaching heart of every person in Uzbekistan, fills the fruits with the sweetness. Why don't we see Uzbekistan's fruits in the world markets? Why are they sold at a low price with little chance of going outside the country? What steps should our farmers take to ensure that the natural quality of the fruits is appreciated worldwide?
A Producers’ Cooperative in the Syrdarya region! What is it and How Does it Work?
The project co-financed by the European Union "Sustainable Development in Rural Areas of Uzbekistan", implemented by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ), is engaged in technical assistance by introducing innovative solutions for agriculture in six regions of Uzbekistan (Ferghana, Andijan, Namangan, Kashkadarya, Syrdarya and Jizzakh). One of the six regions of the project is the Syrdarya, where the famous pomegranate sorts grow.
In 2017 a producers’ cooperative called "Dehqonobod Asl Anori" was established in Mirzabad district, which includes 35 farms. The cooperative produces pomegranate fruits and processes natural pomegranate juice since 2018. It consists of two parts: a demonstration plot and a juice processing line including a storage unit. The regional Khokimiyat provided the cooperative with a building, which was renovated with the support of the project. Equipment from Austria was purchased and installed for the production of pomegranate juice with the help of foreign experts. The Khokimiyat also provided a 5-hectare plot of land, which is now used to grow young pomegranate trees.
According to the chairman of the cooperative Nematov Isroil, the creation of the cooperative was not an easy thing to do:
"In the minds of many people, the word "cooperative" is still associated with old working methods. After the conducted info-sessions, farmers have concluded that producers’ cooperatives are totally different from the system of the past and represent a very profitable association of farmers with benefits for everyone. At present, all our activities are planned, problems and disputes are solved by the general meeting, where we discuss all important issues. Everyone has the right to vote. Every member who joins a cooperative can make a profit depending on his or her contribution. Members may voluntarily join and also voluntarily withdraw from the cooperative. The big advantage is that, with the cooperative opening, many unemployed young people have been provided with the job”.
This year Gulistan farms have an opportunity to reach a new level and sell their products outside Uzbekistan. Companies from Korea, Turkey and the Netherlands has interest in the Syrdarya pomegranates. In order to increase the trust of potential buyers, to convince them in the high quality of the harvest, to increase its value and cost, it is necessary to pass certain stages of international quality certificate. One of such international procedures is the GLOBALG.A.P. audit, which results in the issuance of a food safety certificate.
GLOBALG.A.P. is the world's leading farm safety program, operating in more than 135 countries. GLOBALG.A.P.'s goal is to ensure safe and sustainable agricultural production for the benefit of farmers, retailers and consumers worldwide. GLOBALG.A.P. is not limited to the certification of fresh fruit (as in the case of pomegranates). The following points are also integral parts of the certification process:
- Food safety and traceability;
- Environment (including biodiversity);
- Health, safety and well-being of employees;
- Animal protection;
- Pest control, quality management system and risk analysis;
The GLOBALG.A.P. audit covers all stages of production, from preharvest tillage and crop protection to post-harvest treatment, packaging and crop storage. In order to apply and be certified, the following five steps are required:
1) Download the relevant GLOBALG.A.P. standard documents and checklists and begin the preparation;
2) Compare the proposals of the certification bodies in the country, register with the body of your choice and obtain your GLOBALG.A.P. (GGN) number;
3) Perform a self-assessment using the checklist, correct any items for which you have discrepancies. A specially trained professional GLOBAL G.A.P. consultant can provide you with valuable assistance during the preparation of the audit;
4) Make an appointment with a GLOBALG.A.P. certified certification body. The inspector will then conduct the first on-site inspection;
5) As soon as you successfully meet the requirements of the standard, you will receive a GLOBALG.A.P. Integrated Farm Assurance Standard certificate for the relevant scope, valid for one year.
The Syrdarya Pomegranates Impressed Foreign Experts
Preparations for certification in the Syrdarya region began last year, when the members of the cooperative at the general meeting decided that it was necessary to obtain an international document before trying to export the harvest to the world markets. Having studied the check lists, the farmers understood that there was a lot of work to be done, and the rules were quite thorough. Among them there are, for example, such basic items as plant care hygiene, signposts, correct soil fertilization (soil analysis is carried out on site) and much more from the long list.
This autumn, during the 2019 harvest season, GLOBALG.A.P. auditors arrived at the farms of “Dehqonobod Asl Anori” cooperative. With smiles on their faces, the two experts welcomed us and admired the juiciness and beauty of the fruits. Expert Iuliana Grigoriu told about the audit:
"Hello. My name is Iuliana Grigoriu. I am the auditor for GLOBALG.A.P. - the standard for food safety or primary production. Today we have arrived in Uzbekistan to make audit for the cooperative, under which 35 farmers will be certified. We are very pleased with the opportunity to conduct such an audit and support farmers in exporting their products. GLOBALG.A.P. standards require that special attention be paid to the use of pesticides, keeping farms clean, keeping records of agricultural activities, and registering the labor documents of the workers. I wish you good luck for selling your certified pomegranates and all the best!”
We asked the second auditor, Vito Mariga, the question of why it is so important for farmers to get certification from GLOBALG.A.P.:
"The compliance with GLOBALG.A.P. standards is mandatory for farmers if they wish to export their products. When exporting, the price of products is usually higher than when sold in local markets. One of the main requirements of the standard is compliance with farm hygiene rules. As you can see, it is very clean here (points to the pomegranate garden where we spoke), as well as the signs instructions on how to keep the premises clean and hygienic. As you can see, the fruit itself is also of very good quality. This year's harvest has been fantastic! I also hope that this cooperative, for which we are currently auditing, will make great strides.”
Obtaining a GLOBALG.A.P. certificate from the first glance seems like a complex process involving many conditions that require good preparation and a lot of energy. But, on the other hand, if you follow all the rules and requirements, every cooperative in Uzbekistan can undergo the same audit. Having fulfilled all the necessary conditions, farms would make sure that getting the international certification is quite realistic. Every dekhkan would be proud of his job and harvest, which he is able to sell in the markets of Europe, Asia and other parts of the world.
Resources used: https://www.globalgap.org