Export Pack House Requirement
The suggested pack-house floor plan. BAF recommends pack-houses processing agricultural commodities for export design their operations according to the floor plan above.
The Biosecurity Authority of Fiji (BAF) is mandated with the responsibility to facilitate agricultural trade, primarily agricultural produce exports from Fiji. There are a number of factors to consider before attempting to export plant, animal or forestry goods from Fiji and one of these is the availability of a pack-house.
There is a need for exporters to have pack-houses which are Biosecurity Approved Premises (BAP) and there are requirements that must be met in order to obtain BAP certification.
An export pack-house is a standard facility which has been specially established to process agricultural commodities for export and meets all requirements set by BAF. The pack-house is an integral component of the export system as a phytosanitary and quality check-point; hence exporters must comply with the requirements for such a facility before an approval is granted for him/her to process commodities in that particular pack-house.
The following are some of the key mandatory requirements.
- Location – must be an ideal area free of hazardous odours, smoke, dust or other contaminants and also free from flooding
- Roadways – must provide proper accessibility to the pack house; preferably tar sealed
- Must have sound construction and follow the floor plan set by BAF
- Must provide adequate working space for ease of processing and cleaning, in other words, accommodate unhindered flow in processing
- Must have physical separation between processing points to avoid contamination of produce
- Must have concrete floor that allows a proper drainage system
- Ceilings must prevent any dust accumulation and should be easy to clean
- Must be designed in a way that prevents pests and other contaminants from entering the pack-house (windows should have anti-insect screens)
- Must have proper ventilation system – mechanisms must be in place to control temperature inside the pack-house
- Must have a general hygiene system in place
Sanitation – the facility must have:
- Adequate supply of water
- High pressure hosing system
- Adequate drainage and waste disposal system
- Availability of hot water
- Cleaning schedules and adequate cleaning equipment
- Personal hygiene facilities
- Convenience (bathroom and toilets) – readily available and must be away from produce processing area
Inspection requirements for Quality Controller (QC) and BAF usage
It is mandatory for the pack-house to have an inspection room (or a designated area) with sufficient space, adequate lighting, fixtures, benches, tables and equipment such as magi lamps, magnifying glasses and hand lenses to be used by the Quality Controller for his/her inspection before commodities are passed for BAF inspection. The Biosecurity Officer(s) will use the same or another room/area for their inspection.
The QC must ensure that the pack-house has separate storage rooms for processed commodities and other food items well away from where chemicals are stored.
BAF’s Technical Team trains the QCs for exporters of agricultural commodities and accredits them with certificates (as qualified QCs) annually. Usually 2 – 3 trainings are conducted every year so that more than one QC per exporter can be trained without affecting his/her pack-house operations.
Control of Food Hazards
Because the export pack-houses process commodities that will end up on someone’s plate when exported, it is very important that the pack-house maintains food safety through food hygiene practices and equipment sterilization. Some export pack-houses registered with BAF have obtained HACCP certification and BAF recommends that exporters that currently do not have HACCP certification or potential new exporters should also operate under HACCP accreditation.
*HACCP = Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points; is an international food safety certification
Cleaning Procedures and Methods
Export pack-houses that process agricultural commodities must have a cleaning program. Cleaning must be done on a regular basis. Adequate cleaning tools, chemicals, disinfectants and equipment must be used. Generally, an active and integrated pest control system should be in place and a pest control company shall ideally be engaged to undertake pest control activities.
The processes that are undertaken inside the pack house ensure the commodities are processed and packed in accordance or in line with the standards for commercial imports (requirements) of the competent regulatory authority of importing countries. For example, if okra is being processed at an export pack-house for the New Zealand market, it must satisfy requirements set in the Import Health Standard (IHS) developed for okra from Fiji by the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (NZMPI).
Furthermore, good pack-house maintenance and commodity processing practices provide confidence to Fiji’s trading partners that standards are being followed and high levels of phytosanitary safety observed which ensures fruits and vegetable cleanliness is maintained at all time for export.
Segregation of pack-house activities
It is extremely important that each of the pack-house processes are separated through physical barriers or spacing and occur in a “one-way” manner. In other words, commodities must enter the pack-house in one area and then follow the processing line and exit from another area without having to go back in the same area where it was first received.
The advantages of segregation is that it eliminates natural cross contamination of processed commodities with unprocessed ones (avoid transfer of pests) and also reduces secondary cross contamination which can happen due to handling by pack-house workers.
Biosecurity Approved Premises (BAP)
The Biosecurity Act 2008 under Section 88 specifies the requirements of the BAP. Section 88 (1) stipulates the approval of such premises where the inspection, testing and treatment of biosecurity regulated articles can take place. BAP registration for export premises (that is, pack-houses) is done on an annual basis. There are standard requirements which the exporters (and importers) must meet in order for their pack-houses/facilities to be registered as a BAP.
Those exporters that adhere to the set requirements are issued certificate of compliance valid for one year – subject to maintenance of the facility as per the requirements. There are certain fees and charges applicable for BAP registration – please enquire at your nearest Biosecurity Office or with the Trade Facilitation and Compliance Team at BAF HQ on how best we can help with the inspection, payment of fees and certification of your pack-house.
Fruit Exporters License (FEL)
Under Fiji’s Fruit Export and Marketing Act, Chapter 154, “fruit” includes vegetables, trees, plants, shrubs and roots and the unmanufactured products of trees, plants, shrubs and roots. The Fruit Exporters License, FEL in short, allows commercial export of agricultural products from Fiji.
Chapter 154 also stipulates that “a fruit exporter’s license shall be valid for such period, not exceeding 12 months, as is specified in the license, being a period ending on 31 December in the year of its commencement.”
The Act also states that “subject to this Act and the regulations, the Permanent Secretary for Primary Industries (Ministry of Agriculture) may, upon receipt of an application in writing in that behalf accompanied by the prescribed fee (currently $5.45), grant to a person a fruit exporter’s license.” In other words, BAF facilitates the grant of FEL; the approval for which comes from Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture.
In order to obtain a FEL, there are conditions applicable and documents required which must be submitted for any renewal or issuance of new license. Please contact BAF to find out more in this regards.
The application form is readily available on the BAF website (www.baf.com.fj). The application can be lodged at the nearest BAF station. The application is first verified by the locality BAF officers against the mandatory requirements. Applicants meeting all BAF requirements and having submitted proper documentation will be recommended by the officer for issue of FEL to new applicants or renewal of FEL for existing exporters.
The complete set of application with recommendation is sent to BAF Headquarters where the final verification is done by Team Leader for the Trade Facilitation and Compliance Unit before preparing license papers to obtain endorsement from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture.
All FEL and BAP checks are conducted simultaneously. This is to ensure that the inspection and issuance of export license and BAP certificates are carried out together so that they are valid for the same period. All BAP certificates of compliance and FEL are valid from 01 January to 31 December of the same year.
Audits and their importance
Pack-houses registered as BAP with BAF are subject to audit. Auditing is a means of evaluating the effectiveness of a company’s/exporter’s or organizations internal control. It helps to pin-point how well an exporter is keeping records and ensuring compliance and also how well BAF is overseeing the export system. Audits help to find and prevent deceit. Most importantly, audits also help to identify risk areas and rooms for improvement.
BAP and FEL requirements must be met and diligently adhered to, to sustain the existing bilateral export agreements and other trade pathways that Fiji enjoys with different countries.