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US certification move worries local exporters

Published date:
Sunday, 31 August 2008

Local fresh produce exporters are concerned about the US plan to ditch the European Good Agricultural Practices Certification body (EUREP-GAP) and come up with its own `American-GAP`.

American-GAP regulations which will come into force any time from now, entail setting up a product information and registration system to make it possible to trace the origin of a food product. It covers all stages of production, processing and distribution.

It may, under certain conditions, require that there be no trace of pesticide residue in fruits, vegetables and cut flowers intended for the US markets.

``This Washington move is tantamount to imposing yet another stiff Technical Barrier to Trade with a developing country, `` said the Tanzania Horticulture Association (TAHA) Executive Director, Jacqueline Mkindi.

Mkindi reiterates that the American-GAP when it comes into force, by any reasonable standard, will make it even more difficult for the African horticultural products to enter the US market through African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA).

The TAHA boss who was in the US recently, fears that the local horticulture growers who were used to the EUREP-GAP coupled with lack of capital and technical-know-how will obviously face a range of constraints in complying with `American-GAP`.

``However, unless miracles happen, Tanzania`s horticultural producers and exporters will not be able to adapt rapidly to the new measures,`` Mkindi noted, adding, ``and therefore we stand to lose our market share in the emerging potential U.S market.``

The legislation, known as the AGOA, whose centerpiece is to assist the economies of sub-Saharan Africa and to improve economic relations between the United States and the region, was approved by the US Congress in May 2000.

It authorised the President of the United States to determine which sub-Saharan African countries would be eligible for AGOA on an annual basis.

The eligibility criterion was to include improved labour rights and movement toward a market-based economy.

Each year, the President evaluates the sub-Saharan African countries and determines which countries should remain eligible. Currently, there are 40 AGOA-eligible countries including Tanzania.

Even then, both the US and Africa have gained substantially from AGOA. In 1999, total U.S.-Africa trade was worth US$19 billion, rising to US$71 billion in 2006.

Total exports from Africa to the U.S. have increased from US$15 billion in 1999 to US$59 billion in 2006, while US exports to Africa have doubled from $6 billion to US$12 billion over the same time period.

But Tanzania does not feature among the top 11 AGOA beneficiary economies. The current top players are Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius and South Africa. Others are Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Nigeria.

According to the Assistant US Trade Representative for Africa, Florizelle Liser, there was need to increase the continent`s share of global trade.

``If trade is increased by just one percentage point to three per cent, it would generate additional export revenues of US$70 billion.

This amount will be equal to three times the amount of aid the continent currently receives annually from donors,`` she said during the 8th Edition of Sullivan Summit in Arusha.

TAHA is a fast growing organisation with 48 members, earning the country over US$45 million per year, employing more than 10,000 people.

The association represents the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector which plays a significant role in the country`s economy.

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