Compliance Support Infrastructure and Services > United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE)

UNECE supports the use of international agricultural quality standards, in particular in the agricultural sector of low and middle-income countries.

Agricultural quality standards

Many developing and transition economies lack the capital, technology, and human resources to meet internationally-agreed commercial agricultural quality standards. This places them at a competitive disadvantage because compliance with these standards is widely used by importing countries as a condition for granting access to developed economy markets. The implementation and enforcement of these standards by developing countries, especially LDCs, would considerably facilitate exports of their agricultural products, thus helping them to develop the agricultural sector and raise average incomes, especially among rural populations.

In order to promote the greater economic integration of its members into regional and global markets, UNECE, through its Working Party on Agricultural Quality Standards (WP.7), provides a forum for governments to develop internationally-harmonized agricultural quality standards and explanatory material on how to apply them in practice. UNECE has developed 85 standards for fresh fruit and vegetables, dry and dried produce, early and ware potatoes, seed potatoes, meat, eggs, and cut flowers. Commercial quality issues that have implications for international trade are discussed in different specialized groups, and assistance is offered to countries that are interested in implementing UNECE standards (e.g., training workshops and seminars).

Each standard is developed in full cooperation with all interested parties (member and non-member countries of UNECE and international governmental and non-governmental organizations), and every effort is made to come to a consensus acceptable to all. For meat standards, in particular, the Secretariat prepares publications that include internationally-agreed specifications written in a consistent, detailed and accurate manner, and using comprehensive colour photographs and diagrams to facilitate practical application of the standards.

The main beneficiaries of technical assistance activities are government agencies, specifically those in charge of inspecting agricultural produce imports and exports. Associations of producers, exporters, traders, and processors also participate in the work, and benefit from a better understanding of the standards that are required by export markets. All UNECE agricultural quality standards and implementation guides are available on the Internet and on CD-ROM.

Capacity-building activities consist of technical workshops and study visits to growers, packing houses and laboratories. These help countries successfully adapt their human and technical infrastructure to changing market requirements. The capacity-building and promotional activities of the Working Party are financed by the UN Development Account and bi-lateral donors.

Workshops have been organized at national and regional levels in China, Egypt, Georgia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Moldova, Mongolia, Russia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Thailand and other countries. The projects are implemented by the UNECE in joint collaboration with other regional commissions, international organizations, and the public and private sectors. In this field, the UNECE works closely with all the units of the UN System and also with other organizations, for example the European Community, the OECD, and the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

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There is also other UNECE work related to support infrastructure and services (such as market surveillance and testing), undertaken in the area of Regulatory Cooperation and Standardization Policies. For more information on this work, see under Category: Legal and Regulatory Framework.