Quality assurance in the agriculture sector

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yellow and black tractor on green grass field during daytime
Four Assorted-color Roosters
Agriculture means, “the basic and applied sciences of soil and water management, crop production including production of all garden crops, control of plants, pests and diseases, horticulture including floriculture, animal husbandry including veterinary and dairy science, fisheries, forestry including farm forestry, home sciences, agricultural engineering and technology and marketing and processing of agricultural and animal husbandry products, land use and management” (Law insider dictionary, 2013-2023: 1).
The agriculture sector is very important in all economies around the world mainly because it plays a very essential role in increasing the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country. Effective and planned agriculture extends the market size of a country through increased production of agro products for exports.  Eighty percent of the world’s poor depends on agriculture as their source of income (World Bank 2021). Agriculture is a key component in the attainment of the majority of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). It is one of the pillars of poverty reduction which increases income and improves food security. Approximately 11 billion tonnes of food, 32 million tonnes of natural fibres and 4 billion 3 metric tonnes of wood are produced globally (FAOSTAT,2021; DNFI, 2023). Global employment figures show that agriculture takes 25% of the share, in sub–Saharan Africa it takes more than 50 % and the employment figures increase in low-income countries to as high as 60% (World Bank 2021).
Though the agriculture sector is threatened with climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic among others, it is expected to provide the world with enough food, feed, fiber, fuel and other agro raw materials, which should be affordable (price and availability), safe and healthy. These consumables should have been produced in a sustainable (environmentally, socially, economically) way while those working in the industry should also have fair incomes and good working conditions.
Considering the above statement, issues of quality and quality assurance are inevitable. There must be rules, laws and regulations guiding food safety, security for people, animal welfare and concerns about biodiversity. That is why the global agriculture sector is governed by an international regulatory framework and associated codes of practice. These facilitate the smooth running of operations in the sector and minimize or prevent contamination of food and harm to people, animals and the environment. Internationally, the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) collaborate through Codex Alimentarius Commission in the production of food quality safety systems. These standards and codes govern animal feed, antimicrobial resistance, biotechnology, contaminants, nutrition, labelling and pesticides, among others. They are designed to make sure that on farm practices give farmers the opportunity to produce safe food products that meet quality and specified standards. Other codes and standards, belong to the ISO standard family tools, Global Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) developed by FAO, first in 2003 and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) just to mention a few.
The Global Quality Assurance Association (GQAA), believes in the words of John Ruskin that quality is never an accident but a result of an intelligent effort all the time. It takes compliance and adherence to a robust quality management system to achieve the goal of fulfilling the requirements of customers and other interested parties. This involves quality planning, quality control, quality assurance, quality improvement and enhancement. Implementing quality checks and procedures (quality assurance) should be the order of the day so that the desired quality for products and processes in the agriculture value chain can be achieved. Non-adherence and non-conformance to standards and procedures is a breeding ground for huge losses in the sector through, for example, import bans of food (crop, meat) due to high chemical levels, food borne diseases, adulterated food stuffs and other quality related issues. These are a result of non-adherence to standards. The impact is that farmers and the nations lose revenue, and trade relationships are strained.  This results in the erosion of the efforts made on the SDGs by the agriculture sector.
It is our mandate at GQAA to create quality and quality assurance awareness through education and capacity building activities that. These foster the quality culture in all the agriculture sector stakeholders and aid them, especially the farmers to get the required quality certifications. Assessments, monitoring and evaluations of the quality management systems is also crucial to attain the advantages that are brought about by adopting a quality culture. The nexus between trade and quality cannot be ignored as the world has become a global village. Competition on markets is inevitable and agricultural companies/enterprises can only thrive through quality products and services. The GQAA is always available to support through capacity building training activities, assessments and evaluations, building of robust quality management systems and designing appropriate tools for monitoring and evaluation as well as prevention and corrective action tools. GQAA does all this to build the quality culture through quality assurance in order to maintain and expand international markets for agricultural produce.
(1) The Law Insider https://www.lawinsider.com/dictionary/agricultural-sector
(2) FAOSTAT (2021). New Food Balance Sheet, FAO, 12 July 2021
(3) Discover Natural Fibres Initiative (2023) DNFI.org
(4) FAOSTAT (2021). Forestry Production and Trade, FAO
(5) World Bank (2021), Employment in Agriculture (%of total employment) (modeled ILO estimate), The World Bank. Washington DC 2021.
(6) John Ruskin https://www.forbes.com/quotes/5467/
(7) Codex Alimentarius International Food Standards  https://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/en/
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