by SUSAN MANN
At least one food retailer is pushing Canadian horticultural famers to join CanadaGAP (good agricultural practices), the industry’s voluntary national on-farm food safety program.
Heather Gale, Canadian Horticultural Council CanadaGAP national program manager, says one major retailer has already said that in addition to dealer-shippers being required to be on the CanadaGAP program, the farmers who supply them must also be certified by Dec. 31, 2012.
Gale isn’t sure if other retailers will implement similar policies. “Some of them likely will. I’m aware of another one that is currently looking at what their policy is.”
Currently 1,800 growers across Canada are enrolled in the CanadaGAP program, she says, noting there is strong participation from growers in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia.
Adrian Huisman, Ontario Tender Fruit Producer’ Marketing Board secretary manager, says most major Ontario tender fruit growers are enrolled in the national food safety program. Of the 350 growers, about 70 – or 20 per cent – represent 90 per cent of Ontario’s production. Huisman says those growers have received instruction and have been audited for several years now.
But Huisman says he doesn’t know if the smaller growers, or ones selling at farmers’ markets or on-farm have been audited yet. Farmers are encouraged to participate or risk having their produce rejected by retailers after next year.
In the meantime, time is running our for Ontario growers to access industry-paid education and training in the national food safety program. Funding for the Partners-in-Quality on-farm food safety education project provided by the provincial tender fruit board finishes at the end of this year. Starting in 2012, anyone wanting education in the CanadaGAP program will have to either pay for it or do it themselves by getting the manual and following the instructions.
Huisman says currently if growers want one-on-one or group instruction at their farms to assist them in implementing the CanadaGAP program and preparing for the audit they can get the company the board selected to provide the service to do it. The company bills the board and not the growers.
Huisman says the board has offered the education program for at least seven years.
For the audit portion of CanadaGAP, growers contact the Canadian Horticultural Council, which has selected auditors to go out and audit each grower. He says it’s the grower’s responsibility to have their farm audited and to pay for the audit. BF