Almost everything in the Netherlands is legally regulated, and more importantly, those laws are nicely adhered to, relatively speaking. So is GlobalGAP just a standard working method for the Dutch grower, or a paper tiger? "Definitely not, because in GlobalGAP, a lot more is managed than merely legislation or standard working methods," says Albert Wielink, quality manager at The Greenery.
"The standard contains over 200 guidelines, most of which can be well explained to the Dutch grower. There are also requirements for which it's difficult to explain what purpose they serve, so growers find those to be an administrative burden. And because the Dutch grower doesn't just have a GlobalGAP certificate, but also a Tesco Nature certificate, a QS certificate and other protocols that include these burdens, the Dutch grower spends too much time on this.
As an example, Albert points to the monthly obligatory stock-taking of the amount of fertilizers: "That takes a grower 15 minutes. The same goes for taking stock of crop protection. Before you know it, all that registration takes up half a working day. In addition, the grower has to take note of the weather conditions for every spraying. If he deploys crop protection with dry weather, but the weather report shows a chance of 50% rain that day, the auditor has something to clarify."
So Albert calls on GlobalGAP to cut down on administrative burden, and focus as much as possible on the many good stipulations in the certificate. "The rules for storage of spraying equipment, for instance. That shouldn't endanger the product. In addition, version 5 says harvesting containers can't be used to store things like DIY equipment or the weekly groceries. There are also clear guidelines for the registration of post harvesting, and where the grower used to have to execute at least 1 measure of choice in integrated crop protection, that's two now."
These changes, Albert says, don't have much influence on the current working method of growers: "Many measure are already commonplace, and the drift reducing measures are also already reasonably embedded in law." The guideline for mass balance is an important change though, as far as Albert is concerned: "Until recently, it only applied when selling certified and non-certified produce. With the new guideline, every grower needs to be able to show that the number of harvested kilos of certified produce is plausible compared to the number of hectares. So if you grow one hectare of pears and you sell 16 million kilos, you'll have to be able to show the auditor some pretty good trees."
Many other measures serve for clarification and tightening. The biggest change, Albert says, is in the attention to microbiology, a leitmotiv in GlobalGAP. "That attention is in the plot choice, the cultivation, the water use, in packaging, and of course HR." The Greenery is ready to help its grower with that, but Albert emphasizes the responsibility is for the growers: "The grower will have to estimate the risks, and execute management measures. He will also need to make his staff aware of the risks. As far as hygiene and microbiology are concerned, the staff is the group that can make the biggest difference. Microbiology will have a huge impact on the Dutch grower. I can't imagine Dutch growers not getting anything to do with that."
All in all, Albert believes the paper tiger can definitely show its teeth: "I expect many a grower will have steam coming out their ears when reading some of the new guidelines. But at the end of 2016, they will be the owner of a certificate that complies with GlobalGAP version 5."