Trade Forum Features

Adding quality to export management

15 April 2013
ITC News
How ITC assists exporters to get better access to market information to open up their export potential

Quality of products and services is a prerequisite for successful market access and is essential to increase revenues from export. Therefore, it is not surprising that many projects implemented by ITC have an important quality component involving a range of services aimed at:

  • Enhancing exporter access to information about mandatory technical requirements and voluntary standards applicable in the importing country
  • Developing exporter capacity to adapt their products and management systems to meet these requirements
  • Facilitating exporter demonstrations that products meet relevant requirements
  • Improving exporter access to standardization, metrology and conformity assessment services, which in many developing countries is not adequate.

ITC’s quality intervention in Gambia’s Sector Competitiveness and Export Diversification initiative, which is funded by the Enhanced Integrated Framework, started in June 2012 and addresses food safety and quality issues that are hindering export market access for Gambian groundnuts, cashew nuts and sesame. The intervention includes the development of standards for the three product sectors, upgrading laboratory testing capacity, training in food safety systems and the development and implementation of field schools for farmers in the sectors.

In a project in Senegal funded by the Netherlands Trust Fund, the ITC quality team is assisting mango exporters from the Niayes region in accessing the European Union (EU) market and improving their competitiveness. Two enterprises achieved GlobalGAP certification, a standard for the certification of agricultural products resulting from good agricultural practices, which was awarded by ECOCERT in August 2012. ITC also conducted training sessions for producers and exporters on the prevention and treatment of fruit fly infestation and the implementation of good agricultural and cold chain practices. A series of analyses on pesticide residue conducted by Laboratoire Phytocontrol, an internationally accredited lab, proved mango samples were in conformity with EU regulation on maximum residue limits.

Between 2007 and 2012, ITC successfully supervised a number of Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) projects, including initiatives to strengthen the fisheries sector in Yemen, the sesame seed and shea nut butter sectors in Nigeria, and horticulture in Tanzania. Because of the discontinuation of its supervisory role in STDF projects in 2012, and in light of its work, ITC is now called upon to implement STDF projects. In this context, ITC is implementing the STDF Improving Food Safety and Quality of Sri Lankan Fruits and Vegetables project from March 2013 to March 2015.

ITC has also been active in the implementation of trade promotion projects in Central Asia and has assisted in the accreditation and international recognition of conformity assessment bodies. One certification body in Uzbekistan, SMS ITI, became an accredited ISO 9001 certification body, and two testing laboratories for food and agricultural products in Tajikistan became accredited to ISO/IEC 17025. ITC is assisting the Kyrgyz Accreditation Centre to become a full member of the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation. ITC is also providing direct assistance to enterprises to implement food safety management systems, while two enterprises in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have already been certified to ISO 22000.

Within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States regional trade development project, ITC developed a guide to EU market access conditions for pasta and flour exporters in the Common Economic Space of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. It is based on an ITC study of quality and sanitary and phytosanitary infrastructure in these countries.

An export development project in the northern corridor of Peru includes a quality component aimed at building the capacity of trade-related institutions, such as PromPeru, that run programmes designed to enhance the competitiveness of small enterprises through compliance with food hygiene and safety requirements in international markets. The project selected 10 trainers-cum-counsellors who were trained to assist 10 small- and medium-sized enterprises in the agro and agro-process sector in the implementation of food safety systems based on hazard analysis and critical control points.

The ITC quality team is also active in the development of bulletins and publications aimed at facilitating the understanding of quality-related topics among exporters and institutions working on international trade developments. These include joint ITC/ISO check lists on ISO 14000 and ISO 22000, and the joint ITC/National Metrology Institute of Germany publication Export Quality Management: A Guide for Small and Medium-Sized Exporters that is available in English, French and Spanish. This guide provides managers with answers to the most frequently asked questions about quality, technical requirements, management systems, conformity assessment, metrology, accreditation and the World Trade Organization’s technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary agreements.

These are only a few projects in which the ITC quality team is intervening to enhance the competitiveness of enterprises by meeting technical requirements. However, such requirements are evolving and new needs for enterprises to meet customers’ social and environmental exigencies are surfacing. This means the quality component in some new projects will include interventions on social responsibility, environmental management and energy management, all based on international standards.

The multiplier effect

Martin Labbé, Adviser, Online Marketng and Digital Networks and Sébastien Ioannitis Mccoll, Adviser, Enterprise Competitiveness, ITC

ITC’s one-to-one-to-many approach increases impact in the field. The best allies to achieve this multiplier effect are local trainers and advisers who are trained and coached by ITC. This is the case in Algeria, where ITC and the Algerian trade promotion organization ALGEX have implemented a capacity building programme on web marketing and e-commerce under the EnACT programme and the Certified Trade Advisers Programme (CTAP). EnACT is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency and aims to reinforce the capacity of Algerian small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and institutions for sustainable exports.

CTAP is a high-impact capacity building programme that has been implemented in more than 30 countries. It is designed to develop the knowledge and skills of export advisers who then assist SMEs in enhancing their international competitiveness. In Algeria, 23 advisers were trained and certified on business management, export strategy design, export business diagnostics, export transactions and advisory skills. CTAP was delivered through a mixture of training workshops and fieldwork coaching to ensure effective knowledge transfer and skills development. In 2012, these advisers assisted 97 enterprises, of which 49 have already experienced a positive business impact in terms of the redefinition of export strategy, business opportunities or volume of export transactions.

ITC also supports the training of trainers. In Algeria, ALGEX asked ITC to build the capacities of businesswomen and young entrepreneurs to use the Internet to promote, market and sell products and services, with a special focus on social media and free and open source software. A rigorous selection process was held to hire two Algerian trainers with a background in web marketing. Initial training with a pilot group of trainees took place in September 2011 at Sidi Abdellah Cyberparc in Algiers. The trainees-turned-trainers then replicated the training 10 times between October 2011 and February 2012, training over 160 managers throughout Algeria and achieving a scale that would not have been possible through conventional direct training. Further to the training and leveraging social networks, several participants reported new business.