International trade in agricultural products has expanded quickly, fueled by the growing consumer demand and technological developments in marketing and processing. Rapid technological advances in processing, packaging, storage and transportation have enabled an enormous number of food products, fresh and processed alike, to be traded among distant countries, with Asian countries being no exception. This trend is posing major challenges, as well as opportunities for developing countries in the trade of high-value food products.
One major challenge is the proliferation and strengthening of food safety standards and technical regulations, especially in developed countries. Due to poor capacity and experience, many developing Asian countries are struggling to comply with the emerging requirements and the high costs of compliance. Such institutional weaknesses and rising compliance costs can marginalize small enterprises and small-scale farmers in those countries.
Recently some Asian countries have tightened the standards of agrochemical residues in foods, to cope with their national concern on food safety. Farmers are asked to come up with produce with minimal agrochemical residues, while collectors, distributors and traders are under pressure to minimize post-harvest contamination of agrochemicals. Inspectors are expected to detect a great number of agrochemicals in a simple, rapid, accurate and cost-effective analysis. In view of the possibility of the establishment of an Asian Free-Trade Zone, there is an urgent need to develop a common protocol for agrochemical-residue analysis, and Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) system for small- and medium- scale Asian farmers.
Tentative topics to be addressed