The Yomiuri ShimbunObtaining Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certificates has become an urgent task for domestic farmers looking to provide food to athletes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games after the organizing committee announced its procurement criteria.
The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games announced on March 24 that producers who supply vegetables and other foods to the athletes village will require certification showing the safety of their products has been verified by a third party.
However, less than 1 percent of farmers in Japan have obtained such certification. Domestically produced foods could be in short supply at the athletes village unless necessary measures are taken quickly.
Under the criteria presented by the organizing committee, producers of food for the athletes village will be required to have mainly GAP certificates, which are verified by third parties.
There are three major kinds of GAP certificates. One is the internationally recognized Global GAP (see below). The second is JGAP — Japan’s own. The third is local GAP certificates, issued mainly by prefectural governments acting as third parties.
Takeo Tanaka, chief of the organizing committee’s Sustainability Department, said, “We would like to see producers’ efforts increase the number of products that meet the criteria.”
Currently, however, only about 400 farmers have obtained Global GAP certificates, while about 4,100 have obtained JGAP certificates. Totalling these numbers still accounts for less than 1 percent of all the farmers in Japan.
GAP certificates issued by prefectural governments and the JA group of agricultural cooperatives under their own standards are relatively widespread. But many of the certificates do not have systems in which third parties do the checks, and thus cannot fulfill the organizing committee’s criteria.
If this situation remains unchanged, most of the food products expected to be necessary for about 15 million meals may come from overseas.
The high costs of obtaining and maintaining Global GAP and JGAP certificates is behind their slow spread. Obtaining a Global GAP certificate costs several hundreds of thousands of yen, and keeping one costs ¥200,000 to ¥400,000 annually.
Though the government subsidizes the whole cost of obtaining the certificates to encourage farmers to get them, there are no disadvantages for farmers without them who sell to domestic buyers only.
The reality is that “it is difficult for farmers to feel the benefits” of the certificates, said a senior official of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry.
On the other hand, this kind of certification is widespread abroad. In Europe, it is estimated that about 70 percent of fruits and vegetables sold at markets are produced by farmers with Global GAP or similar certificates.
To expand exports of agricultural products in the future, the government and ruling parties want to popularize GAP certifications as “a legacy of the Tokyo Games.”
However, there are some ambiguous points in the criteria presented by the organizing committee, which stipulates that “certification schemes recognized by the organizing committee” can also be valid.
Thus, products with lower-grade certificates could be used for the Tokyo Games.
Shinjiro Koizumi, director of the Agriculture and Forestry Division of the Liberal Democratic Party, said, “Widespread prefectural GAP certifications, which are not internationally accepted, would result in a Galapagos-like situation,” meaning they would only be recognized in Japan.
He stressed that higher-grade GAP certificates should be obtained by Japanese farmers looking to sell agricultural products overseas.
■ Global GAP
An international certification confirming the safety of agricultural products. The system is controlled and managed by a private nonprofit organization headquartered in Germany. It checks such factors as sanitation control, improvement of farm work environments and compliance with the law. More than 150,000 farming households in more than 100 countries worldwide are certified.Speech