Writer: Agriculture and Food Cluster Team
ASEAN-Germany cooperation sets to support food safety and quality assurance in the South East Asia region and a pilot project in improving fruit juice safety and quality in Thailand is one among the others.
Thailand is the world largest exporter of pineapple juice concentrate. It exports the concentrate of USD 360 million in 2015 with the average of growth rate 10 per cent per each year.
Demand for the pineapple juice concentrate is always there, Mr. Somneug Wantem, Factory Manager of Pranburi Hotei Co., Ltd, Thailand said. Pineapple juice concentrate is used as a base for mixing fruit drinks. Therefore, it is always needed, said Mr. Somneug who has been working in the fruit juice business for 27 years.
However, fruit juice quality and its assurance standard is a concern among many Thai food processing manufactures, said Mr. Somneug.
“To get the share in the [export] market, quality must be a top priority, and later credibility will be followed,” he said. “We have to take a firm stance on our product quality.”
Thailand is home to 20 pineapple manufacturers of both local and international company brands. These 20 manufacturers export 18,000,000 to 20,000,000 tons of pineapple concentrate juice yearly to mostly United States, Europe and Japan. Philippines and Indonesia also share the world’s pineapple juice concentrate market.
It is a very competitive market, indeed, said Mr. Jirawat Lotharuckpong, Managing Director of Takerng Pineapple Industrial Co., Ltd. “Customers have different options. If we cannot offer the products upon their requests, they can simply turn their back away.”
“We need to increase our quality and standard to live in this business, said Mr. Jirawat of Takerng Pineapple Industrial, established 27 years ago.
ASEAN-German Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS) with supports of European self-control association for fruit juice safety and quality ‘Sure and Global Fair (SGF International e. V.) offers supports to improve fruit juice factories in Thailand and ASEAN Member States to be in accordance with national regulations and internationally recognized standards.
Six pilot manufactures from Thailand took part in the joint Public and Private Partnership cooperation project “Improved product safety and quality for the Thai fruit juice industry” for advice on how they could improve their product hygiene, authenticity and safety in complying with SGF standard. The pilot factories were all pineapple juice manufacturers.
The six factories were visited by an SGF auditor and being audited in according to the SGF standard. The factories were observed, given advice, and monitored during the joint project period from 2012-2015.
“Given the high number of machines in the factory, it is important that hygiene issues are addressed, said Ms. Napaporn Rattanametta, the SGF auditor and also the project manager on food safety of ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems. “For example, machines may not have been cleaned properly and this is inconsistent with the measures set by the factory. Many times such measures only exist on paper, and may not be applied in practice. So, problems resulting from poor quality products are often found.
“Factories must pay close attention to cleaning, as well as the levels of sanitation and hygiene in every part of the production process. Hygiene measures must be applied to every process. If they are missing in even one process, the quality of the pineapple juice will be affected,” said Ms. Napaporn who has been working in the fruit processing industry for over 10 years.
Two piloted plants were visited 16 months later after the pilot project ends as part of monitoring and evaluation assessment.
Mr. Somneug of Pranburi Hotei said he felt more confidence and comfortable taking to buyers. “It is like we now speak the same language with buyers since we have improved to meet their internationally recognized standard.
“Also, I find the consultation with the auditor very useful. Though the project ends, we can still call for advice,” said Mr. Somneug.
Mr. Jirawat of Takerng Pineapple Industrial said it was difficult in the beginning particularly in changing mindsets and old behaviors. “Some staff so got used to the same old practices. As the factory opened 27 years ago, there were certain ways of doing things. But, this SGF standard requires all every minor details [from the selection of raw materials to production and quality control and assurance] to be thoroughly checked, fixed and treated. At start it was very exhaustive, but it is all worth it as our customers are happy with our products.”
Around 4,000 pineapple fruit growers have indirectly gained knowledge and skills in Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) cultivation through this public and private cooperation.
ASEAN SAS project provides advice to manufacturers of all ASEAN Member State countries in improving food safety and quality assurance to be in line with internationally recognized standard. Study trip, consultation programme and capacity development training for factory staff can be tailored upon request.