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May. 16, 2007

Quality Management System: Good Agricultural Practice (Gap) for on-Farm Production in Thailand


Food safety and quality management system (QMS) schemes in the agriculture and food sectors are new systems that are widely recognized in Thailand. Knowing the potential to undermine the integrity of Thai food and agricultural produce and impede competitiveness, Thailand's Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives established a government-private sector working group to enhance the agricultural QMS that assures the quality of the country's plant, fishery and livestock goods.

The document on plant QMS provides information relating to on-farm food safety for fresh produce. The code of practices is designed for use by growers, trainers, facilitators, auditors and customers to achieve greater certainty and consistency in the development, implementation and auditing of an on-farm food safety program. This paper covers details and experiences in the implementation of the system for on-farm crop production only; those of the fishery and livestock production are not included.

How the System Was Developed

A working group, initiated by the Department of Agriculture and consisted of people experienced in developing QMS for fresh produce, helped develop a system to assure the quality of fresh produce in Thailand. The Department of Fishery and the Department of Livestock are the ones responsible for fishery and livestock issues.

The system was announced to the public on 25 September 2002 to ensure that growers, traders and customers are familiar with the system. Two years later, the Thai government emphasized its policy by promoting 2004 as the Food Safety Year to make people aware of food safety and quality food.

The QMS of Thailand for agricultural goods was developed based upon the concepts of good manufacturing practice (GMP), good agricultural practice (GAP), Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), sanitary and phytosanitary standards, quality assurance, and the ISO method.

The QMS was designed to guide the certification body to certify the on-farm production process of individual growers or of produce-marketing firms. It is a management system to prevent, eliminate or minimize physical, chemical and biological hazards and to produce fresh fruits and vegetables that are free of pests and with marketable quality from the farm through the distribution channels for markets and processing. Also, the system guides growers to ensure safety and quality of fresh produce for customers. The on-farm management system emphasizes integrated pest management (IPM) and integrated crop management (ICM). Other agricultural crops such as rice, herbs and field crops are also included.

Core Concept of the System and Trace Back Model

The core concept or requirements of the system is grouped into eight items that can serve as quality objectives of the system (Table 1). The details are in the operation procedures of the document.

Tracing back is a big task. Thailand has not yet started activities on this, but the model has been set (Fig. 1). The document states that growers must keep up-to-date records available to demonstrate that all activities of on-farm production are applied. These records will help trace the history of a produce from the farm to the final consumers. The records must be kept for a minimum of three years. Thailand's QMS has already prepared a ring for the trace back activity to hook up so that the whole chain of QMS and trace back will be completed.

Components of the System

The QMS for on-farm production has the following components: quality policy, quality objectives, quality plan, operation procedures and work instructions as well as forms and checklist. The document of the system has to be produced for individual crops owing to the different details in each component, particularly the quality plan.

Quality Policy

It is the policy or vision of growers in the system. Normally, growers present their policy as follows: "We strive to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for fresh markets and processing and offer the best customer satisfaction." If they were durian growers, their quality policy would be as follows: "We strive to produce quality durian for fresh markets and processing and offer the best customer satisfaction."

Quality Objectives

Quality objectives are developed based on customer requirements and used as guidelines to establish a quality plan. The quality objectives, for example, may be to produce fresh fruits and vegetables that meet customer satisfaction and physical, chemical and biological safety, and that are free of pests.

For durian growers, for example, their quality objectives would be to produce mature durian with no symptoms of hard flesh, wet core and mummy flesh and is chemically safe and free of pests. For mangosteen growers, their quality objectives could be to produce shiny mangosteen with no symptoms of translucent flesh and interior gummosis, with a fruit weight not less than 70 g and is chemically safe and free of pests. The difference of quality objectives between the two crops is their respective eating quality that meets customer satisfaction.

Quality Plan

The working group modified the HACCP and ISO method to develop the quality plan that was used as a practical framework to get quality produce in accordance with the system's quality objectives. The concept of HACCP helped them to identify where the potential product quality hazards may occur and what practices may be needed to prevent, eliminate, or minimize the hazards. Therefore, the agro-techniques for the whole production cycle process must be well prepared and developed.

A quality plan describes on-farm practices required to provide quality fresh produce that meets customer satisfaction. The eight-column-table quality plan (Table 2) offers interest and value to growers and other suppliers, auditors and customers. Growers must follow practices in the quality plan in order to provide fresh produce in accordance with the quality objectives. Auditors can use a plan to implement and audit an on-farm food safety program. Customers can be assured of buying quality and safe fresh produce.

  • Process step : Stage of plant growth and development affecting the quality objectives
  • Hazards : Problems or hazards related to quality objectives (descriptive information)
  • Control measures : The control measures of problems and hazards
  • CP/CCP : In a particular stage of plant growth and development, should the practice (control point or critical control point) be followed to produce a fruit or vegetable in accordance with the quality objectives?
  • Operating limits : Indicators to control or monitor hazards or CCP
  • Monitoring : What, how to and frequency of monitoring
  • Corrective actions : Corrective actions when problems or hazards exceed operating limits
  • Records : All corrective actions must be recorded.

Examples of generic and durian quality plan are shown in Tables 3 and 4.

Operation Procedures and Work Instruction

Operation procedures describe all procedures required in the system and the details of the core concept that have to be achieved. The work instruction includes the steps of on-farm techniques that will ensure growers to produce quality and safe fresh fruits and vegetables.

Forms and Checklist

All practices indicated as critical control points in the quality plan must be recorded in the forms provided for the purpose of trace back. The checklist can be used to supplement existing and auditing checklists used by certification bodies or for internal audits carried out by a group of growers, a growers' cluster or an individual's business.

Status of Quality Management System (QMS) in Thailand (2005)

Commencing in the fiscal year 2003, a generic document of the system and its documents, in particular, the quality objectives, quality plan, work instruction and forms of 28 crops developed by the Department of Agriculture have been published. The 28 crops include 14 fruit crops, namely banana, (Musa spp.), coffee (Cofea arabica L., A. robusta L.), durian (Durio zibethinus Murr.), longan (Dimocarpus longan Lour.), longkong (Aglaia dookkoo Griff.), lychee (Litchi chinensis Sonn.), mango (Mangifera indica L.), mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana L.), and pineapple (Ananas comosus L.) for consumption and processing, pummelo (Citrus grandis L.), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum L.), tamarind (Tamarindus indica L.), tangerin (Citrus reticulata L.) and young coconut (Cocos nucifera L.). The rest are vegetables, namely, asparagus, baby corn (Zea mays L.), sweet corn, fresh soybean (Glycine max L.), groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.), ginger (Zingiber officinale), chili (Capsicum spp.), okra, rice (Oryza sativa L.), vegetables in Family Cruciferae, legumes, capsicum and eggplant, melons and herbs.

Food safety based on the QMS is still Thailand's policy. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, which is in charge of the food safety policy, assigned the Department of Agriculture and Extension to act as an advisory body. The Department of Agriculture serves as a certification body and the National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity and Food Standard acts as an accreditation body. The government serves as a certification body during the early stage of the QMS, after which, auditing is done by a private institution.

Growers and owners of 325,000 farms of 28 crops have been trained on the QMS and up to 5 percent of the 325,000 farms will be Level 1-certified.

The certification in the system is divided into three levels, as follows: Level 1 on food safety; Level 2 on food safety and free of pests; and Level 3 on food safety, free of pests and quality.

Overcoming Obstacles in QMS Implementation

The strong support of government policy makers is important. Education and extension are also important to create awareness among growers and other industry stakeholders (producers, collectors, packers, wholesalers, processors and retailers).

Consumer groups need to be encouraged to stimulate the demand for safe and quality foods.

Government officials and others involved in the quality management system are encouraged to be educated and well-versed on each level of the QMS.

Private sectors or others interested in the system are welcome since implementation may be limited by the capacity of a government organization to provide resources.


  • Anon. 2002. The Committee of Standard and Certification System for Commodity Development, Department of Agriculture, Thailand. (In Thai).
  • Anon. 2004. Quality management system. Chanthaburi Horticultural Research Center, Department of Agriculture, Thailand. (In Thai).
  • Anon. 2004. Quality management system: GAP. Royal Thai Government Gazette, No. 121, July 19, 2004.

Index of Images

  • Figure 1 Trace Back and Internal Audit Model.

    Figure 1 Trace Back and Internal Audit Model.

  • Table 1 Core Concept of QMS for Gap for on-Farm Quality and Safety

    Table 1 Core Concept of QMS for Gap for on-Farm Quality and Safety

  • Table 2 Example of an Eight-Column Table Quality Plan

    Table 2 Example of an Eight-Column Table Quality Plan

  • Table 3 A Quality Plan to Provide Fresh Produce in Accordance with Quality Objectives

    Table 3 A Quality Plan to Provide Fresh Produce in Accordance with Quality Objectives

  • Table 4 Durian Quality Plan Showing Only the Step of Harvesting Mature Durian Properly

    Table 4 Durian Quality Plan Showing Only the Step of Harvesting Mature Durian Properly

  • Table 5 Durian quality plan showing only the step of harvesting mature durian properly

    Table 5 Durian quality plan showing only the step of harvesting mature durian properly

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