Archive for the ‘Global Trade’ Category

Monday, February 03, 2014 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: PMA’s comments on foreign supplier verification proposed rule

Last week, PMA submitted comments to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) foreign supplier verification program proposed rule, which can be accessed on our FSMA Resource Center. To help our members quickly understand the key points of our comments to FDA, we have developed a six-page executive summary. I’ve highlighted some of these below but I encourage you to read the full summary and our comments.

PMA Chief Science and Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker commented that “we have great expectations that the FSVP rule, by providing a more preventive approach to import produce safety, will significantly reduce the frequency of produce testing at the border, which often causes severe and significant economic losses of perishable commodities.” He addressed these key issues, among others, in our comments:

  • Importer Verification Activities of Foreign Suppliers (FDA Proposed Option 2). Here, we noted that, for the importer to perform verification audits before purchasing produce from a foreign supplier, this may greatly restrict the flexibility of marketplace purchases for these highly perishable commodities.
  • FDA Proposed English-Only Requirements for FSVP Recordkeeping. Our comments here focus on the industry’s international scope. Since many languages are used to transact business and to verify implementation of produce safety preventive controls, we strongly recommended FDA allow for FSVP recordkeeping in English as well as other languages.
  • Mandatory Importer Use of Certifying Bodies (i.e., Auditors) Accredited by FDA-Recognized Accreditation Bodies for FSVP Verification Activities. PMA at this time does not support the mandatory use of certification bodies that are accredited by FDA-recognized accreditation bodies. Since FDA has not established and implemented the processes and procedures necessary to recognize accreditation bodies, it is unclear if there would be sufficient certification-body audit capacity to accomplish all the audits if required.

Our comments also addressed the need for FDA to reduce redundancy of the foreign supplier verification program proposed rule with other FSMA regulations.

To learn more, visit the What’s New tab in our FSMA Resource Center to access the executive summary of our FSVP proposed rule comments, the full comments, and a brief video below from PMA’s Dr. Whitaker on this topic.

Tomorrow I’ll share highlights from our comments on the FSMA third-party accreditation proposed rule, filed last week as well.

Monday, January 27, 2014 by Lee Mannering

Talking technology with PMA’s Dr. Bob Whitaker

One of the (many) interesting things I’ve found about my time in the fresh produce industry is watching the evolution of business practices. When I came on board, Price Look Up codes were just beginning to be adopted; now the focus is on the Databar. The same holds true with technology.

Recently PMA announced a new focus on technology and how we’re helping members understand and connect with future opportunities. So I asked Dr. Bob Whitaker, PMA’s chief science and technology officer, to share his perspectives in this brief Q&A:

Why are we focusing on technology?
“We know that technology holds the key to helping us feed the world through innovation. It’s PMA’s job to help members glean inside knowledge about cutting-edge, emerging technologies, and how to apply that knowledge to improve their bottom line. We’re going to help members do that, not only by introducing the industry to the possibilities, but also educating them on what problems these technologies could really help alleviate, and how.”

What resources do we offer in technology?
“We’ve been working with members over the last several months to grow the value we’ll deliver in the Science and Technology area of our new strategic plan. Building on existing resources in the field of technology like UPC Link, Databar Online and the Food Safety Modernization Act Resource Center, we invested resources in developing resources that are geared toward building profitability and global demand for fresh produce. This year, we’ll have three new offerings – two unique events and a series of year-round technology content in the areas of food safety detection, production input management, and data science.

What tech-focused events are coming up on our calendar that members may be interested in?
“We’ve got two scheduled for this year. On March 26 in St. Petersburg, Florida, we will host PMA Tech Talks, where a handful of speakers will talk about technologies that are doing great things in other industries, and then bring them home to produce. Then on May 21-22 in San Diego, California, we’re holding Tech Knowledge, which will help companies looking for education and connections to technology that’s on the very near horizon. Additionally, entrepreneurs and solution providers will have the chance to connect with potential investors and other key decision makers.”

To get more details on the upcoming technology offerings, visit the PMA website, where we’ve also added a new Tech Center that highlights all available member resources.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by Kathy Means

Government market data: Understand how it can work for you

Here on Field to Fork, Lee and I often write about government reports and statistics, especially those from USDA. Many factors affect your business: consumer demands, weather, prices, trade policies, and more.

Government reports offer baseline information about market variables. These resources can help everyone in the supply chain make essential business decisions. Yet today, the nation’s data and statistical agencies face unprecedented pressure to assess and reduce their costs. As a result, there have been suspension, aggregation, and even, in some cases, an elimination of data and statistical assessments critical for alleviating market volatility and uncertainties.

However, in the midst of these changes, a consortium of organizations is offering a webinar on Friday, January 24 at 2 p.m. EST, on the role of federal data sources in fruit and vegetable markets.

If you’re interested in this information, you can register here.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 by Lee Mannering

PMA president to speak at USDA 2014 Ag Outlook Forum

Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced speakers for the 2014 Agricultural Outlook Forum, to be held from February 20-21 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. Titled “The Changing Face of Agriculture,” this year’s forum will examine global trends as well as young farmers and women in agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will moderate two general session panels on the Future of Agriculture. Speaking in the first panel will be Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; Paul Schickler, President of DuPont Pioneer; Kellee James, Founder and CEO of Mercaris; and PMA President Cathy Burns. Topics to be discussed include import/export markets, market trends, food security, technology, and innovations in agriculture.

In addition to Secretary Vilsack’s participation, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will moderate the afternoon panel “A Roadmap for Women in Agriculture,” USDA’s Chief Economist Joseph Glauber will deliver the 2014 Agricultural & Foreign Trade Outlooks, and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman will speak during the forum’s dinner. USDA will also release preliminary data from the new Census of Agriculture at the forum.

You can get more information on the 2014 Ag Outlook Forum via the USDA website, including registration details and specifics about the 29 breakout sessions that will feature experts in the fields of international trade, forestry, conservation, invasive pests and citrus disease, nanotechnology, social media, local food systems, and food safety.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 by Lee Mannering

USDA outlook report highlights imported fruit trends, consumption

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service’s most recent Fruit and Tree Nuts Outlook report, the average value of U.S. imports of fresh fruit has grown rapidly, rising from $1.68 billion per year in 1990-92 to $6.89 billion per year in 2010-12 in nominal dollars (or from $1.24 billion to $3.07 billion in real value, using prices indexed to 1982-84 levels).

The report examines the seasonal patterns of imported fresh fruits versus those of domestic crops, and the extent to which imports complement domestic products to supply the U.S. fresh fruit market year round. Some representative fresh fruit imports are included to show how, when, and where major foreign supplies enter the U.S. market, as well as an analysis of the aggregate (all fruits combined). The historical production levels of these fruits for fresh-market use are also examined for possible effect of imports on domestic products.

With the substantial increase in imports since the 1990s, the report notes that the structure of the import mix has changed noticeably, with new types of fruit accounting for growing shares of U.S. imports. In particular, although bananas still remained the top U.S. fresh fruit import in 2010-12, their 28 percent value share of total fresh fruit imports was less than half of their nearly 60-percent share in 1990-92.

The market share for other traditionally imported fruits, such as apples and pears, also declined (although less dramatically than for bananas). Meanwhile, the share for imports of berries, avocados, citrus, and other tropical fruits rose substantially.

ERS researchers also explored what would happen if imported fruit did not exist. The results indicated that if there were no imports, the average real retail price index for fresh fruit would increase from 153.4 percent to 225.4 percent (using prices indexed to 1982-84 levels), with price variation and volatility increasing from 3.86 percent to 12.02 percent.

It’s an interesting report, one you can access here via the ERS website. You can also share your thoughts on this report in the Global Trade Community on PMA Xchange.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013 by Lee Mannering

Upcoming USDA Webinar to explore fresh produce inspections

A couple of weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service hosted a free Webinar focused on Good Agricultural Practices and Good Manufacturing Practices. Next week, AMS continues its industry outreach efforts with another learning opportunity based on the most common question received via the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) customer service line: “Interpreting USDA Fruit & Vegetable Inspections: Does the Shipment Make Good Delivery?”

On December 5 from 2:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern, Jacob Garcia, PACA Marketing Specialist, will discuss:

  •  The sections found on a USDA inspection certificate.
  • When you should call for an inspection.
  • What type of inspection you should request.
  • The difference between quality and condition defects.
  • The questions will PACA ask you, when calling the customer service line.
  • Your responsibilities after receiving an inspection certificate.
  • Examples on how to interpret an inspection.

The webinar will conclude with a question and answer session.

As with all of USDA’s Webinars, this session is free; however, registration is required and space is limited. You can register via the USDA website.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: PMA comments on proposed produce safety rule

Prior to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announcing the extension to this Friday for produce safety proposed rule comments, PMA submitted our comments to the agency on this important Food Safety Modernization Act proposal; these are available on our FSMA Resource Center.

To help our members quickly understand the key points of our comments to FDA (which clock in at 102 pages), we have developed a six-page executive summary. I’ve highlighted some of these below but I encourage you to read the full summary and the comments.

  • PMA is supportive of the FDA produce safety regulation exempting commodities destined to receive commercial processing that adequately reduces the presence of pathogenic microorganisms (should they be present).
  • PMA opposes the exclusion of farms with less than $25,000 in annual food sales because there is no scientific basis to support the exclusion.
  • PMA opposes the “qualified exemption” and recommends that this exemption be eliminated. PMA understands that FDA is statutorily obliged to provide this “qualified exemption;” however, it should be noted that the “qualified exemption” is not science- or risk-based, as food safety risks are not limited to any particular business size, market channel or geographic radius.
  • PMA opposes the use of a list of exempted commodities based on consumer preparation for consumption and recommends that this exemption be eliminated. PMA does not support the approach of using a commodity-specific list of exempt products based on current likely means of consumer preparation and consumption for produce commodities.

In our comments, we urge FDA to align the requirements of the produce and preventive controls rules because a more seamless integration of the two rules will strengthen enforcement and reduce confusion. This alignment will also reflect the realities of produce production and handling.

Also included in the executive summary is a synopsis of our position on microbial standards for agricultural water, FDA-mandated numerical preventive controls for agricultural water, and other key issues.

To learn more, visit the What’s New tab in our FSMA Resource Center to access the executive summary of our produce safety proposed rule comments, our proposal comments. Or if you’re pressed for time, you can watch the five-minute video below from PMA’s Chief Science & Technology Officer Dr. Bob Whitaker as he summarizes our comments to FDA. (If the embedded video does not display, you can watch it here on Youtube.)

Monday, November 18, 2013 by Lee Mannering

FSMA update: Clearing up comments’ deadline confusion

If you were following the Twitter conversations on the #FSMA hashtag last week, you probably noticed quite a few Tweets about frustrations around the technical difficulties stakeholders were experiencing when trying to submit comments to the regulations.gov website.

In response to these concerns, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration FDA made two separate announcements last Friday that caused PMA members to contact us for clarification on what was due and when it was due. Below are the new deadline dates and a recap of each:

  • November 22, 2013: This is the new due date for industry comments on the proposed rules on produce safety and preventive controls for human foods. Comments were originally due last Friday, November 15, but FDA pushed the deadline back by a week due to the aforementioned technical difficulties.
  • March 15, 2014: This is the new due date for industry comments on the environmental impact statement (EIS) that is related to the produce safety proposed rule. Comments were originally due last Friday as well. Again, this March 15 deadline is for feedback on the EIS only.

Some PMA members have asked about the environmental impact statement (EIS) and what it is about. Our Vice President of Food Safety and Technology Dr. Jim Gorny notes that “the FDA call for comments about the agency’s preparation of an environmental impact statement for the proposed produce safety rule is a separate and distinct issue from the proposed provisions put forth in the proposed the produce safety rule. The EIS is intended to evaluate the potential environmental effects of the proposed produce safety rule.”

In addition, a few weeks ago FDA announced it was extending the comment period on the foreign supplier verification and third-party audit accreditation proposed rules by 60 days. The new deadline is January 27, 2014.

PMA members are encouraged to visit to visit our FSMA Resource Center to access the latest FDA and PMA information resources, as well as our FSMA Community on PMA Xchange to ask questions and engage in conversations on this important food safety issue.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking a look at our comments on the produce safety proposed rule, with comments on the preventive controls rule coming Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013 by Lee Mannering

Fresh Summit sessions, workshops now online

If you missed any of the educational programming from Fresh Summit 2013 a few weeks ago in New Orleans, you can get caught up on these sessions (including the annual State of the Industry presentation) by visiting the PMA website.

Our Education team has developed a series of videos, narrated PowerPoint presentations, audio files, and presentations that includes PMA and PMA Foundation offerings as well as highlights from the store tour, awards, and more:

  • General Session: State of the Industry 2013 - Connections to Drive Innovative Thinking
  • General Session: FL!P - Creative Strategies for Turning Challenge into Opportunity, and Change into Competitive Advantage
  • General Session: Seven Deadly Sins of Innovation
  • PMA Foundation Women’s Fresh Perspectives Leadership Breakfast
  • Engaging the Mobile Shopper
  • Global Market Brief: China
  • The Changing Landscape: Today’s Restaurant Consumer
  • Economic and Financial Markets Outlook for Q4 2013 and Beyond
  • Get Your Blog On
  • Creating Fruit and Veggie Passion
  • Crisis Communications is Really Social Communications
  • Produce Waste: Turn a Loss to Your Advantage - New solutions to combat produce waste
  • Buyers and Sellers: Moving to a Food Safety Culture?
  • Mining the Data
  • Exploring Emerging Technology With Industry Innovators
  • FSMAnia Hysteria
  • Netweaving: The Business Version of Paying it Forward
  • Retaining Key Employees: Creating a Self-Motivating Work Environment

As you look through these resources, please note that some items can be viewed by anyone visiting the website, while others are available to PMA members only (requiring you to log in first). To access these value-added resources, visit the PMA website.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013 by Kathy Means

The global marketplace: Another step forward in making it easy

You may have seen the recent announcement about organic equivalence between the United States and Japan. It means that, in just a few months: “all certified organic plant and plant-based processed products that are produced in the U.S. and Japan, or which have final processing, packaging, or labeling in the U.S. or Japan, may access either market.”

This is no small thing given that USDA says “the organics sector in the United States and Japan is valued at more than $36 billion combined, and rising every year.” Eliminating some of the fees, certifications, inspections, etc. will make it easier for marketers in both countries to do business. The United States also has equivalency agreements for organics with Canada and the European Union.

It’s great to see this next step in organics equivalence. It’s great to see the plans within the U.S. food safety legislation for safety equivalence with other countries. Of course, these equivalence agreements have to be meaningful to ensure credibility within the trade and with consumers.

The fresh produce industry relies heavily on global trade. To have a year-round abundance of fresh produce (organic or conventional) to drive consumption, most countries have to import. And to maintain strong farm economies, countries also need to export. The simpler it is to do that, the more produce businesses throughout the supply chain can thrive. Equivalency agreements like this do help simplify our global marketplace.

Let us know what you think about this in PMA’s global trade community at PMA Xchange.