Over the years, Global G.A.P has grown to become one of the most widely requested primary farming certification standards. What distinguishes Global G.A.P from other standards is that it advocates food safety and promotes sustainability, animal welfare, workers’ health and safety, and biodiversity. Recently, there has been a substantial increase in the safe production of food demands both retail and consumer. For this reason, Global G.A.P incorporates Good Agricultural Practice and HACCP to ensure that retail and consumer demands are prioritized.
For this article, obtaining a Global G.A.P certification will be briefly discussed in simplified ten steps.
1st Step: Do your homework and research Global GAP Certification
You must get familiar with different certification options offered by Global G.A.P. There are three types of Option 1 certifications that producers may choose from.
- Option 1, “individual certification”, caters to single producers with a single production site. This producer subsequently becomes a certificate holder once they have passed their audit. Option 1 with “multi-site without implementing Quality Management System (QMS)” applies to producers or organizations that own multiple sites functioning as one legal entity. There is also option 1 that comprises of “multi-site with the implementation of a mandatory QMS”. In this case, individual producers or organisations with more than one site do not function as separate legal entities.
- For most producers that prefer to pool their resources together to save costs, option 2 certification will be ideal. Option 2 Group certification with a compulsory shared QMS enables producers to apply as a group where each producer receives their Global Gap Number (GGN). However, only one certificate for the group is granted upon passing the audit or inspection. It is important to note that a GGN is obtained from the Certifying Bodies (CB) after a producer has successfully registered; more on this under the second step. A Certification Body is a Global G.A.P approved organization responsible for inspection, auditing, and issuing certificates on behalf of Global G.A.P.
There are three versions of Integrated Farm Assurance (IFA) certifications, i.e., IFA V5.2, V5.3 GFS, and V5.4 GFS. The Global G.A.P IFA V5.2 is suitable for producers whose markets do not require compliance with the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). Both IFA V5.3 and V5.4 are GFSI benchmarked, which means that they cater to the producer whose markets require GFSI compliance. Five steps cover the process of being Global G.A.P certified discussed below.
2nd Step: Obtain relevant checklist and implement its requirements
After deciding which certification option and Global G.A.P IFA version to apply for, producers may then visit the Global G.A.P website to download the relevant checklist or standard applicable to their certification choice. The checklist is based on three scopes, namely Crop Base (CB), Aquaculture (AQ), and Livestock Base (LB). Furthermore, CB is further divided into Fruit and Vegetables (FV); Flowers and Ornamental (FO); Combined Crops (CB); Tea (TE); Plant Propagation Material (PPM), and Hop (HO) subs-cope. LB is divided into Cattle and Sheep (CS), which is further subdivided into Dairy (DY) and Calves/Young Beef (CYB); Pigs (PG); Poultry (PY), and Turkey (TY) module.
To comply with the standards requirements, each scope and module (sub-scope) is structured in terms of clauses referenced by a combination of both numbers and letters; for example, AF1.1.1 is applicable for All Farm-Based (AF) scope. For certification purposes, producers need to comply with Control Point Compliance Criteria (CPCC) evaluated as Minor Must or Major Must level.
3rd Step: Compare and select your Certification Body
After producers have acquainted themselves with the standard, it is then sufficient to select a CB in the country in which they are based. Producers would then make a fee comparison of CBs available and decide which to register for their Global G.A.P certification. It is at this step that a GGN is issued to producers. A GGN is a unique 13-digit producer identification code that also allows producers to track other producers, suppliers, and products available on the Global G.A.P database.
4th Step: Seek assistance from Global G.A.P’s approved Farm Assurers
After implementing the Global G.A.P standard, producers may utilize the checklist obtained under step 1 to carry out a self-assessment program as required by clause AF2.3. A self-assessment program informs producers in areas they need to improve to be fully compliant with CPCC. For this reason, Global G.A.P offers suitably qualified and approved Farm Assurers consultants such as ASC Consultants to assist with preparatory internal audits and consult at an extra fee. Farm Assurers also assist in mandatorily required documentation such as policies, procedures, and risk assessments, to name a few.
5th Step: Arrange your audit date with your CB
After completing a self-assessment program, producers may contact an inspector or auditor from a CB and be confident that they meet all the standard requirements. It is important to know that the inspections will occur on two different occasions. The first occasion of the inspection will take place on an announced date communicated to the individual or group producers. In contrast, the second inspection will occur randomly unannounced with no communication of the inspection date. Furthermore, group certification option 2 producers will be selected based on a square root of the total number of producers for an unannounced audit. In contrast, the auditor will only select 10% of the total group for an announced inspection.
6th Step: What to do before booking the audit?
Assuming that a producer has sought assistance from approved Farm Assurers recommended on the fourth step, the next thing to do would be to conduct a preparatory internal audit. In addition to that, a producers Farm Assurer will also assist in Quality Management System’s compulsory documents file, which includes various policies, procedures, risk assessments, training records, chemical spraying records, water testing results etc. Farm Assurers will also assist in identifying nonconformity through internal audit reports that the producer needs to address using corrective actions.
7th Step: Certification (What happens in an audit?)
The audit process is divided into two sessions for the day. The first session is dedicated to file inspection. It is through this inspection that mandatory QMS documents are audited for compliance. The auditor will ask for proof of the standard’s implementation that emanates from documented procedures and policies. Such documents cover employee’s health and safety like medical screening results for chemical sprayers and training certificates for first aider and firefighting, to name a few. Furthermore, activities that have an impact on food safety such as irrigation water quality test results (CB 5.3), MRL residue results (CB 7.6.1), soil and leaf sample results, as well as hygiene training records (AF 3.3) must be readily available on file during the audit.
The second session of the audit focuses more on the processes applicable to the producer pertaining, amongst others, handling, storing and disposal of PPPs according to CPCC of CB 7.7-7.9. The installation of mandatory signage with the potential to impact food safety like a conspicuously displayed hygiene procedure for employees, contractors and visitors, as well as handwashing (FV 5.1.5) and ablution facilities signage, to name a few. It is imperative to consider that signage requirement also extends to orchard identification (AF 1.1.1), water sources like a dam to indicate swimming is prohibited, mixing points, and accident procedures (CB 7.7.14), to name a few.
8th Step: What are major and minor findings?
In essence, Global G.A.P consists of three CPCC determinants, namely, Major Must, Minor Must and Recommendations. Although recommendations do not affect the producers’ certification, they are beneficial in improving the production site’s efficiency, productivity and sustainability. A producer must attain 100% of all Major Must CPCC applicable for their respective scope where one or more non-compliance will warrant the nonconformance. This means that should a producer have one or more Major Musts finding on their audit; then their certification will be jeopardized. Lastly, only 95% of Minor Must noncompliance is permissible to pass the certification; therefore, anything more than will result in unsuccessful certification. For example, for a citrus producer to obtain their certification, they must first attain 100% on all Major Must, and at least 95% on Minor Must meet requirements under AF, CB and FV altogether.
9th Step: Corrective actions and timelines
Corrective actions can be defined as necessary steps or measures that are implemented to address nonconforming findings. For Global G.A.P audits, nonconformance or nonconforming findings emanates from failing to attain 100% Major Must and 95% Minor Must CPCC. Consequently, a CB will issue a warning and grant a producer a period of three months to implement corrective action effectively after detecting nonconformance during the initial site inspection. Furthermore, a subsequent inspection will be conducted in which nonconformance shall be closed off within less than 28 days. If food safety, workers’ health and safety, and the environment are adversely affected by the production site’s nonconformance, then the CB shall issue an immediate suspension of the certification.
10th Step: Granting of the Global GAP certificate
Once a CB has conducted an audit and has found the farm or production site(s) to have complied with the requirements, a certificate will be issued. Only legally registered businesses may be issued with the Global G.A.P certificate. The certificate is valid for a period of one year. The producers may then use the GGN label to sell their produce. The label is deemed a badge of responsible farming and transparency by most retailers and consumers, therefore highly beneficial for the farm’s profit.
These 10 steps have been simplified to allow producers who want to get Global GAP certification to understand what the certification entails. For further assistance regarding the implementation of GLOBAL GAP, don’t hesitate to get in touch with ASC Consultants!