Client context/ problem statement
Despite forming the majority of agri-food sector in ASEAN region, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) contribution to exports and participation in international trade in packaged food segment is very limited. The key factors being skill gap, lack of information on market access, trade and food regulations. ASEAN believed in providing MSMEs with knowledge and technical expertise to comply with regional and international standards of food safety and quality, that will contribute to MSMEs’ greater participation in international trade for prepared food. Sathguru was engaged by ASEAN, through competitive bidding, to carry out needs assessment and design capacity building programs for MSMEs & their enabling agencies in 10 ASEAN member states and Australia-New Zealand (ANZ).
The scope of Sathguru’s engagement included:
- Conducting needs assessment, mapping of key stakeholders at all levels, processed food categories and existing capacity building programs in 12 ASEAN and ANZ countries.
- Identifying gaps and focus areas for designing capacity building program including training materials for various stakeholders.
- Consolidating a list of regulations and food standards imposed by ASEAN and ANZ countries.
- Conducting a regional workshop for the stakeholders including private sector for validation and verification of output from needs assessments study, capacity building program design and the implementation plans.
There is high diversity between the countries in ASEAN and ANZ regions in terms of regulations and food standards, processed food categories, MSME presence & role in prepared food sector and their regulatory compliance levels. This is attributed to high socio- cultural and economic diversity and differences in progress levels of food processing industry among the 12 countries; relatively advanced stage in countries like New Zealand, intermediate stage in Thailand and at an early stage in Laos and Vietnam. The approach was to design a capacity building program and implementation plan that can be implemented for each country or cluster of countries with similar requirements. To achieve this, Sathguru:
- Carried out need assessment study through secondary research & primary interactions with key stakeholders like MSME development agencies, industry associations, MSME associations, country regulatory agencies, standards bodies, ASEAN functional units like SC-STRACP, ACCMSME, ASEAN working group on Halal Standards and trade & industry associations.
- Analyzed the information gathered during the primary interactions and secondary research for needs assessment, identified the challenges/gaps for designing capacity building programs and identified target beneficiaries.
- Complied the food regulations, food standards and contact points within the regulatory bodies of 12 countries for public access by MSME and other stakeholders.
- Designed regional capacity building program and national implementation plans with training programs on food safety & technical requirements for MSMEs and the MSME enablers including a standardized set of training materials – for MSMEs, MSME & regulatory agencies, trainers etc.
- Facilitated a regional workshop to deliberate on and validate the designed capacity building program, implementation plans, training materials, import requirements etc.
- The workshop provided participants an opportunity to learn, through case studies, about capacity building programmes, internationalization support provided by national agencies in the ASEAN Member States; as well as the successful internationalization of MSMEs that are exporting to regional and international markets.
Sathguru made specific recommendations to implement the capacity building program across the countries and ASEAN-ANZ region for prepared food trade:
- To address all levels of “preparedness” of MSMEs, Sathguru recommended a four-tiered food safety training structure, with the tiers representing a natural progression upwards to reach a fully compliant, Food Safety Management System (FSMS) in all its elements. Basic requirements like GHP, GMP and basic design and layout criteria were covered under tiers I and II, HACCP requirements in tier III and adoption of voluntary certification systems like ISO 22000 or similar GFSI recognized FSMS under tier IV.
- Sathguru compiled a set of training materials focusing on elements for market facilitation like food safety systems (GHP, GMP and HACCP) and technical requirements like general labelling, nutritional labelling, allergen declaration etc.
- To address the lack of technical capacity of MSMEs and enablers in the countries, Sathguru recommended a comprehensive regional program for technical capacity building including a Trainer of trainer (ToT) approach with prerequisites for screening ToTs.
The regional capacity building program and country implementation plans prepared will support ASEAN in implementing the capacity building programmes. Sathguru’s compilations on regulatory standards, import requirements and contact points of key stakeholders were made available online by ASEAN which benefit MSMEs with information required for international market access.