Understanding Code of Practice for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

A code of practice is a set of written rules which explains how people working in a particular profession/ sector should behave. Kenya has developed the KS1758 Code of Practice for Horticulture Industry: Part 1 deals with Floriculture, and Part 2 deals with Fruits and Vegetables, in line with international standards.

Recently, the fresh produce exporters of Kenya (FPEAK) held a successful Industry which attracted many stakeholders, including growers, suppliers, stakeholders, government agencies, and development agencies, among others. Speaking uring the conference Mr. Andrew Edewa of Compliance Kenya Ltd. took participants through the soon to be mandatory for exporters and producers to comply with KS1758 as a basic standard.

But then, why do organizations, industries and professions come up with the codes of conduct and practice? Are they really necessary?

Well, the horticulture industry in Kenya in conjunction with the government too, have developed their own code of practice to guide the players in the industry.

The Code of Practice aims at providing rules for safe and sustainable production and supply of fruits and vegetables in Kenya. It applies to all actors involved in the primary production, processing and marketing of fruits and vegetables in Kenya.

The objectives of KS1758 are to promote good agricultural practices, to protect consumers, to promote social welfare and for conservation of the environment. A gance at the document shows.

Dialogue and knowledge
To come up with an acceptable code of practice and standards required dialogue between growers and buyers on quality and quantity. This helped to facilitate compliance to the requirements. It also required sharing of knowledge and information through continuous training of management and other personnel. This required using the services of experts and consultants with regard to soil testing laboratories, irrigation, fertilization and crop protection.

Production Planning and Input Management
At the production planning stage, the code talks about developing a written management plan, undertaking risk assessments of all new sites, and appropriate crop choices and production methods should be considered.

At the input management stage, the use of best quality (certified) seeds and choice of crop variety which is accepted by the market and adapted to local conditions, should be done.

In terms of legal requirements, the code specifies that products should be registered in the country of use and should adhere to legal residue levels in food stuffs. It also specifies residue limits in the country of destination if maximum residue levels (MRL) is not available locally. When it comes to storage and disposal, the code states that fertilizers and crop protection products must be kept separately; disposal of packaging of crop protection products must be managed responsibly; and personal protective clothing and equipment must be properly maintained and stored separately from crop protection products.

Still under input management, it specifies use of suitable machinery, which are properly maintained and regularly checked for verification of calibration, use of suitable protective clothing/equipment and optimizing use of water by minimizing waste.

Care of Produce and Record Keeping In caring for produce, the code says when the produce is harvested, care is required to maintain safety and quality, and that only water of drinking quality should be used to clean produce.

Record keeping is a prerequisite for traceability. It consists of records of all agronomic activities on the farm, including choice of variety, sowing conditions, planting dates and quantities. This requires a visual reference system.

Conformity Assessment
The code also deals with compliance with requirements testing by ISO17025 accredited labs. It recommends that proper testing methods should be used for specified parameters.

To demonstrate compliance with requirements, inspections can be carried out by inspectors accredited to ISO 17020 requirements. Again, to demonstrate compliance with requirements, inspections can be carried out by auditors accredited to ISO 17020 to audit the quality management systems in place.

Workers Health, Safety and Social Welfare
The standards also cover issues of worker’s health, safety and social welfare. It specifies that workers should have access to water and hygiene facilities, they should undergo periodic health checks and they should operate in healthy and hygienic environments.

In terms of safety measures, there should be respect to occupational health and safety regulations, and health and safety risk assessment done regularly. Workers’ welfare should be taken care of by respecting laws on welfare and by taking risk assessment of workers’ welfare.

In addition, players ought to comply with the Employment Act, which specifies minimum wages and staff recruitment and promotions procedures. It also covers the issue of freedom of association and participation for workers, and grievance and disciplinary procedures.

Conserving the Environment
In conserving the environment, it says that Environmental Impact Assessment should be carried out and recommends having an energy policy and use of renewable energy technologies.

The document says that there should be compliance with NEMA requirements and that producers should have a waste and pollution management plan.

In terms of governance and management, it calls for legal compliance, and respect for intellectual property, ownership and transfer, among other management issues.

Growers and potential growers in this industry should therefore familiarize themselves with this code since it will affect their day to day operations.

When the produce is harvested, care is required to maintain safety and quality.