Through its efforts in various countries, National Fish and Seafood (NFS) has become a leader in working with small-scale fisheries, and they aim to raise awareness and recognition at the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s annual GOAL conference.
At a panel on providing small-scale farmers access to the marketplace — one of four challenges GAA aims to address at the conference — on the second day of the 8 to 10 October event in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Earlier this year, the Massachusetts, U.S.-based company announced a project to bring small-scale shrimp farmers closer to BAP certification and another to create multiple independent shrimp farm clusters in three countries — Vietnam, Indonesia and India — that NFS is doing concurrently.
“Small-scale farmers produce the majority of the aquaculture products. If their production is excluded on the basis of their inability to meet and certify to international standards, then negative impact on the market will be tremendous,” Jeff Sedacca, NFS president, told SeafoodSource.
“Educating and engaging small scale farmers in sustainable practices and compliance with social responsibility are benefits in themselves for all of us. It is important to all participating in this conference that we develop supplies of aquaculture products that are raised and processed responsibly,” said Sedacca. “The purpose of the small farm group program is to address the biggest challenge, which is how to engage small farmers in responsible aquaculture, and make it possible for them to continue to participate.”
In Vietnam, which Sedacca said is most advanced out of the three countries involved, participating farms have been identified, clustered and are in process of being registered for BAP certification. According to Sedacca and James Baros, NFS aquaculture and sustainability coordinator, local quality managers have been engaged and farms and farm documentation are under pre-certification review to identify corrective actions. Farm group managers (FGMs) and farmers have begun training in the use of reporting software and a farm tour with Sustainable Fisheries Partnership to begin AIP implementation is scheduled for October post-GOAL.
In India, farms have been identified in West Bengal raising black tiger shrimp and Andhra Pradesh raising vannemei. FGMs have been selected, registrations are being prepared and training is being scheduled for after GOAL.
Indonesia is in the process of finalizing the farm cluster. FGMs have been identified and farms have been visited by SFP and NFS staff to begin assessing farming practices and carrying capacity for AIP implementation. Farm improvements are being identified and zonal management approach to the farming cluster is being determined.
“From our perspective there are two major issues to discuss (at GOAL): One, awareness and recognition on the part of retailers and foodservice companies that mandate certification of suppliers for compliance with international standards for social responsibility, sustainability, food safety, and traceability of the challenges faced by small independent farmer in meeting these requirements. We need a commitment on the part of these buyers to support programs that will enable these small farmers to achieve and maintain compliance insuring their continued access to market,” Sedacca said.
“Second, developing mechanisms to educate these small farmers about the need to achieve compliance with international standards, and engage them to participate.”
“It is important that as we develop standards and apply certification costs and procedures that we don’t, in the process of mandating compliance, disenfranchise tens of thousands of small farmers by excluding them from the market on the basis of their lacking certification,” said Sedacca. “To do so would be unfair to them, and disruptive to the supply of farmed products.”
“International standards were developed to provide a guarantee to buyers of food safety, social accountability and environmental sustainability. The demand for products meeting these standards has grown tremendously and as it has done so, it has helped provide access to markets in the U.S. and Europe that have otherwise been unattainable. Through third-party verified certification such as BAP, we are helping the small family farms to play on a level playing field with corporate farms while ensuring they practice responsible aquaculture.”