FIT FOR MARKET+

Mitigating the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic by strengthening the sustainability of the ACP horticultural sector

FFM+ [LOGO]
EU|ACP

2022

START

ACP STATES

COUNTRIES

5 years

DURATION

Fit For Market+ (FFM+) provides support to the horticultural sector in member countries of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS). It aims to maintain and improve the capacity of smallholders, farmer groups and horticultural MSMEs to access domestic, regional and international markets through the progressive sustainable intensification of the horticultural sector, while adapting to changes in their operating environment due to Covid-19 and climate change.

FFM+ has been designed and will be set up in the continuity of FFM programmes and the results of the COLEACP COVID action plan set up from March 2020. This 5-year, €25 million programme is financed by the European Union and the OACPS.

FFM+ support is tailored to facilitate the transition of ACP horticulture towards more sustainable food systems, addressing the priority areas identified in the Farm to Fork strategy of the European Green Deal.

Fit For Market+ will:

  • Strengthen the capacity of smallholders, farmer groups and horticultural MSMEs to access domestic, regional and international markets by complying with regulatory and market requirements in a sustainable framework, while adapting to changes in their operating environment due to Covid-19
  • Ensure these stakeholders have the business skills and tools to pursue and improve their operations through enhanced capacity to manage change and facilitated access to finance
  • Leverage market opportunities resulting from Covid-19 disruptions, and monitor conditions and requirements for market access and competitiveness
  • Enhance the capacity of ACP competent authorities to support the agri-food sector
  • Broker technical innovation and research to generate the knowledge, skills and technologies needed to facilitate the transition of ACP horticulture towards more sustainable food systems
  • Seek and facilitate the increase of the impact of its activities through partnerships.

Rising to the challenge – an example of activities and success of the Fit For Market programmes.

FAQ for FFM+
What is the FFM+ programme?

Fit For Market+ (FFM+) is a technical assistance programme. It has been designed and is set up in the continuity of FFM and FFM SPS programmes and the results of the COLEACP COVID action plan set up from March 2020. This 5-year, €25 million programme is financed by the European Union and the OACPS.

In summary, FFM+ will be providing the necessary support to the horticultural sector in member countries of the OACPS to mitigate the negative economic implications of the COVID-19 pandemic while at the same time to seize new market opportunities by embracing green, low-carbon and climate resilient strategies through the development and adoption of relevant practices, skills and technologies (e.g. digital transition).

The overall objective of FFM+ is to contribute to poverty reduction and improved food security and nutrition, by supporting the building of a fairer, safer and sustainable agri-food sector in member countries of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

The first specific objective of FFM+ is to support smallholders, farmer groups and MSMEs to maintain and improve access to national, regional and international horticultural markets while adapting to changes in the operating environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simultaneously, the second specific objective is to enable smallholders, farmer groups and MSMEs of the horticultural sector to seize new market opportunities through the development and adoption of safe and sustainable practices, skills and technologies.

These objectives will be achieved by increasing the resilience, fairness (inclusiveness), competitiveness and sustainability of ACP horticultural value chains, which in turn are expected to contribute to the transformation of the agri-food sector in member countries of the OACPS. These objectives are contributing to the following SDGs; (1) No poverty, (2) Zero hunger, (4) Quality education, (5) Gender equality, (8) Decent work and economic growth, (9) Industry, innovation and infrastructure, (10) Reduced inequalities, (12) Responsible consumption and production, (13) Climate action, (15) Life on land, (17) Partnerships for the goals.

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How to access FFM+ support?
  1. Send an application for support – Click here.
  2. And/or – stay informed about online events, trade fairs, technical publications by registering to our newsletter. Click here.
  3. And/or access COLEACP’s available resources via the online platforms Click here, including E-Learning, Click here.

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Why was the FFM + programme designed?

Since early 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic has put massive pressure on global, regional and national health systems, disrupted economies and trade, and significantly limited social interaction as countries have implemented preventive and corrective measures in attempts to contain the outbreak. Agri-food micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in member countries of the OACPS have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. This has occurred at a time when climate change already poses a severe threat to the agricultural sector of many economies, evidenced by increasing droughts, floods, forest fires and new pests.

The horticultural sector was growing before the pandemic, and will be even more needed in the post-Covid-19 period to strengthen food security and nutrition. The conditions must be created so that this crisis, combined to others such as climate change, Brexit and the war in Ukraine, leads a paradigm shift in the way people produce and consume food.

In recognition of these contextual elements, combined to the continued evolution of EU market access requirements and confirmed by the positive recommendations of the FFM and FFM SPS Mid Term Evaluation, the OACPS and the EU entrusted COLEACP with the management and implementation of the FFM+ programme.

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What was the COLEACP COVID-19 action plan?

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, COLEACP decided to seek first-hand information on its impact on operators of horticultural businesses across member countries of the OACPS to assess which support could best be redirected as a response. Between March and August 2020, in partnership with regional and national horticultural business membership organisations, COLEACP organised surveys in 19 Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries and through regional bodies to gather data in the Caribbean and the Pacific. This feedback allowed COLEACP to take immediate actions to support its partners through technical assistance, training, business-to-business linkages, access to key information for their business (e.g. freight availability, competent authorities measures, market data), etc. The main areas for support identified by the respondents included access to finance, assistance in identifying alternative markets, skills development in commercial negotiation and crisis management (including but not limited to cash flow management), and support for implementing COVID-19 adapted health and safety practices.

COLEACP COVID-19 Action Plan
Since the beginning of the pandemic, COLEACP has strengthened its activities through its FFM and FFM SPS programmes to contribute to mitigating the negative consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agri-food economy of member countries of the OACPS.

An action plan articulated around five main lines of work has been established and implemented, based on a clear set of principles and taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by technology (e.g. digital learning):
Workstream 1: Information and communication (weekly newsletter)
Workstream 2: Health and safety (dissemination and widespread adoption of preventive measures)
Workstream 3: Support to business management (resilience building and risk management)
Workstream 4: Market access and food security (diversification of markets: from fresh to processing, from export to domestic markets, from physical to digital)
Workstream 5: Advocacy (towards EU27/UK, OACPS, industry for short- and medium-term stimulus measures)

The results achieved in each line of work can be viewed on COLEACP’s COVID-19 platform. FFM+ builds on the COVID-19 action plan implemented since March 2020 and on the activities conducted through the intra-ACP FFM programme co-founded by EU and AFD and FFM SPS programme funded by EU.

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How are the conditions of access to the EU market for agricultural products imported into the EU changing?

Trade between EU and member countries of the OACPS has been historically important in many sectors, especially in agri-food. This trade has created millions of jobs on both sides, generating growth and incomes for value chain actors, with a direct impact on smallholders, women and youth (as agents of change). The EU’s trade strategy aims at ensuring that the EU remains open for trade and investment while being able to adapt to increasing geopolitical, economic, social and environmental challenges. In normal times, and even more so in the post-COVID-19 context, the challenge for the EU and member countries of the OACPS is to boost job creation, generate sustainable growth and investments.

In addition to COVID-19 related disruptions, new EU sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) compliance challenges continue to arise for the horticultural industry in member countries of the OACPS, in particular, (i) from the strengthening of EU plant health rules (i.e. new regulation EU 2016/2031), which are placing increased demands on inspection services and national plant protection organisations (NPPOs) in ACP states ; (ii) from developments under Regulation (EC) 1107/2009, which governs the placing of plant protection products (PPPs) on the market ; and (iii) finally, from the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/625 of 6 May 2020 amending the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2019/1793 on the temporary increase of official controls and emergency measures governing the entry into the Union of certain goods from certain third countries.

Commercial standards, required by global buyers, are also evolving. The emphasis in earlier years was on food safety, and later social accountability, driven by regulatory changes in the main markets as well as by the need to manage reputational risk in the face of increasing consumer awareness and concern. Now the standards are extending to target the environment and sustainable production in a far more comprehensive way. In addition to this, global buyers and standards bodies have imposed additional measures and requirements along supply chains in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In parallel, the EU published a new organic regulation (EU) 2018/848 on organic production and labelling of organic products in June 2018. Organic production and trade respect in essence a number of principles laid out in the EU Farm-to-Fork strategy. It is expected that the EC will propose a policy framework supporting sustainable food systems before the end of 2023. This policy framework should mainstream sustainability in all food-related policies while addressing the responsibilities of all actors in the food system. Combined with certification and labelling on the sustainability performance of food products and with targeted incentives, the framework will allow operators to benefit from sustainable practices and progressively raise sustainability standards so as to become the norm for all food products placed on the EU market.

Last but not least, the UK leaving the EU customs union and single market is also changing the trade dynamics between EU27/UK/member countries of the OACPS.

Support in member countries of the OACPS to agri-food operators from private and public sector to improve the business environment and to harness the opportunities offered by domestic, regional and international markets is more critical than ever. This includes building the capacities of MSMEs, farmers groups and organisations, business membership organisations, service providers, competent authorities, research centres, training institutes, civil society actors and more, on a continuous basis, and improving the quality and standardisation of the products in order to facilitate access to domestic, regional and international markets.

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What are the priority areas of intervention of FFM+?

Resilience and sustainability

  • Increasing the resilience, fairness, competitiveness and sustainability of ACP horticultural value chains will contribute to the needed transformation of the agri-food sector in member countries of the OACPS, and to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Support is tailored to mitigate the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, leverage opportunities which have emerged through the crisis, and facilitate the transition of ACP horticulture towards more sustainable food systems, addressing the priority areas identified in the Farm to Fork strategy of the European Green Deal: reducing dependence on pesticides, reducing excess fertiliser use, increasing organic farming, and reversing biodiversity loss.
  • While the Farm-to-Fork strategy is of most direct relevance, other Green Deal policy areas are also of key importance, including clean energy, biodiversity, pollution, climate action, and digitalisation for the benefit of the environment.
  • FFM+ also addresses the social and economic dimensions of sustainability, including livelihoods, economic viability, social justice and inclusiveness, with an emphasis on participation by smallholders, young people and women, who are frequently the most disadvantaged by changes in local and global supply chains, and who often have most to gain from improved conditions of production, employment and trade, especially during times of crisis.

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Who can benefit from FFM + ?

Organisations and companies based in a member country of the Organisation of ACP States (OACPS) and active in the horticultural sector.

“Horticulture” regroups the value chains corresponding to the following Harmonised System codes: vegetables (chapter 07), fruit (Chapter 08), spices (Chapter 09 from 0904 to 0910), oils (chapter 15, 1509 and 1510 for olive oil, 1513 coconut oil), processed fruit & vegetables (Chapter 20), and aromatic herbs (classified as vegetables, or spices or plants).

Partner beneficiaries’ categories eligible for direct support, triggered through an initial application for support and framed in an individual development project, are the following:

  • Target operators, which include (i) horticultural MSMEs (including outgrowers, brokers/intermediaries and transporters linked to the value chain in formal markets), (ii) farmer groups/cooperatives (hereby referred to as farmer groups) and (iii) smallholders linked to formal markets;
  • Service providers, which are used to roll-out the support to other partner beneficiaries;
  • Training centres (technical and vocational institutions; universities);
  • Smallholders support structures such as NGOs, public or private extension services, local support programmes for smallholders and farmer organisations/associations with a representative function; hereby referred to as farmer organisations
  • Horticultural business membership organisations (BMOs);
  • National/regional technical working groups and ACP certification and standard-setting bodies;
  • National/regional public-private stakeholder platforms (e.g. task forces);
  • Competent authorities at national level, including official controls, who develop and implement SPS policies, regulations and, more generally, national SPS strategies and national SPS Committees and/or public-private stakeholder platforms;
  • Regional Economic Communities (RECs) (and regional SPS Committees) often support a regional approach to SPS issues and are as such identified as potential partner beneficiaries.
  • Research institutions/organisations

It should be noted that the scope of the programme support can cover indirectly plant-based agri-food value chains: given (i) the similar nature of issues in terms of SPS compliance and sustainability faced by other plant-based agri-food value chains (e.g. Flowers and Plants value chains, Chapter 6) compared to Fruit and Vegetable value chains, and (ii) in some cases given the interrelations between operators from different value chains (e.g. public sector inspectors, MSMEs, BMOs, support services to smallholders), “indirectly” refers to support activities being performed (i) through intermediary bodies such as competent authorities, business membership organisations (BMOs), or smallhoder support structures in member countries of the OACPS, and (ii) on a generic level through the production and dissemination of information, technical and training materials which are relevant to other plant-based agri-food value chains.

If you don’t recognize yourself in the categories or the sectors above, or if you don’t want to send an application for support:

  1. Stay informed about online events, trade fairs, technical publications, news from the agrifood sector, COLEACP and its programmes by registering to our newsletter Click here.
  2. And access COLEACP’s available resources via the online platforms Click here, including E-Learning, Click here

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What type of support can be covered through FFM+?

Through the FFM + programme, COLEACP will, contribute to :
Facilitate access to markets for the ACP horticultural sector

  • Monitor and inform on conditions and requirements for market access and competitiveness and leverage market opportunities resulting from Covid-19 disruptions ;
  • Provide strategic information to value chain stakeholders through market intelligence and business development services to enable them to make the best informed decisions on how to leverage new market opportunities ;
  • Advocate for the key role of ACP horticultural sector in contributing to achieving the SDGs
  • Broker technical innovation and research to generate the knowledge, skills and technologies needed to facilitate the transition of ACP horticulture towards more sustainable food systems by tackling dependence on pesticides, antimicrobials, excess fertiliser application and biodiversity loss, and by facilitating low-carbon, climate-resilient and organic farming methods

Strengthen value chains

  • Match the needs of actors in the ACP agri-food sector, and in particular for horticultural value chains, closer to the existing COLEACP resources;
  • Strengthen the capacity of smallholders, farmer groups and horticultural MSMEs to access domestic, regional and international markets by complying with regulatory and market requirements in a sustainable framework, while adapting to changes in their operating environment due to Covid-19 and climate change;
  • Embed sustainable agricultural and management practices throughout business development strategies to improve the competitiveness of MSMEs through a commitment to COLEACP’s Sustainability Charter and adoption of the Sustainability Self-Assessment System;
  • Ensure ACP horticultural stakeholders have the business skills and tools to pursue and improve their operations through enhanced capacity to manage change and facilitated access to finance;
  • Promote fair and sustainable business links between these stakeholders, informed by lessons learned from previous Fit For Market programme activities;
  • Disseminate knowledge and capabilities on a broad scale for all value chain actors through strong links with academia (and training centers) and increased digitalisation;
  • Enhance the access of MSMEs to advocacy functions and service providers (managerial or technical training, organization of production, marketing) by, for example: building the capacity of business intermediary organisations (BMOs) and local service providers; supporting relevant networks/platforms;
  • Enhance the capacity of ACP competent authorities to support the agri-food sector by ensuring the necessary policies are in place, and that sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards and regulations are implemented and enforced, to support the recovery of the sector in the post-Covid-19 environment:
  • Advocate for strong and effective coordination between the private and public sectors and civil society, at national and regional levels

Leverage impact

  • Contribute to national, regional and global alliances and networks by establishing trusting, long-lasting and transparent partnerships between public and private sectors, academia, research and civil society;
  • Make agriculture more attractive for the younger generation and more inclusive for women by working towards equitable value sharing throughout supply chains;
  • Improve conditions for investment and access to suitable financial solutions for MSMEs through targeted collaborations with financial intermediaries and investors who share our vision and values;
  • Seek and facilitate the increase of the impact of activities through technical and financial partnerships;
  • Leverage the technical, digital and pedagogical solutions developed over the past 20 years for the entire horticultural industry and the adaptation of these solutions to the specific national context and to other agri-food value chains;

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How will the resources of FFM+ be used and complemented to address the maximum number of problems faced by horticultural stakeholders in the OACPS member countries?

Resources under FFM+, over a period of 5 years, aim at:

  • Contributing structurally, with others, to poverty reduction and improved food security and nutrition, by supporting the building of a fairer, safer and sustainable agri-food sector in member countries of the OACPS.
  • Managing urgent/crisis situations in relation to market access for the horticultural sector in member countries of the OACPS (e.g. SPS interceptions).
  • Testing and piloting innovative knowledge, skills and technologies, with the potential to be upscaled throughout member countries of the OACPS to benefit the agri-food sector, and horticultural sector in particular.

In line with the recognition of the pertinence of a regional approach throughout member countries of the OACPS in delivering more adapted solutions to foster the development of the agri-food sector and the scale of the proposed programme, complementary funding will be seeked on a continuous basis at continental, regional or national level, through EU Delegations, individual EU Members States’ representations, member countries of the OACPS/Regional Economic Communities (including the African Union) or any other organisation/institution sharing the same objectives, intervention principles and spirit of partnership.

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