Adhering to food safety and plant protection standards is vital for any company exporting agricultural and food products to the European market. As part of the 10th European Development Fund, the EU has been helping SMEs in Benin to improve the quality of their products since 2012.
Whilst global agriculture protection rates are falling; non-tariff measures are on the rise, such as food safety, plant protection, technical standards and certificates of conformity. These new measures are the main trade barrier for ACP countries.
Following the termination of prawn exports to the European market in 2002 owing to non-conformity with EU regulations, Benin’s government decided to establish the Benin National Food Safety Agency (ABSSA) and a laboratory to check food safety (LCSSA).
Since 2012, an EU project in partnership with the Belgium Development Agency, has improved food safety and increased plant protection of agricultural and food products in Benin. A five-year €2.8 million initiative, the project’s goal is to support the government and SMEs in improving the quality of food products, enhancing access to international markets, and safeguarding consumer health.
At the halfway point, the project has achieved impressive results in the private sector. Around 50 SMEs have drawn up their own food safety plans and 11 large companies have obtained Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points certification - the main international legislation focusing on production in the agro-food industry, including all stakeholders and enabling optimal management of food safety issues.
Furthermore, 90 women’s groups were trained in best hygiene practices in Benin. Awareness-raising campaigns about food safety have also been effective in local communities with information broadcast on national TV and community radio stations. A programme to train and monitor ABSSA control staff has been set up and the LCSSA has been strengthened as a result.