Agricultural trade and standards

© GIZ/Aude Rossignol

Agricultural production, processing and trade are the mainstay of many people’s livelihoods the world over.

Trade in agricultural products is booming. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the monetary value of global agricultural exports in 2020 (USD 1492 billion) was 3.7 times higher in nominal terms than in 2000, a situation that benefits small producers and processing companies, too.

Goods made using particularly sustainable and verifiably fair production methods are now starting to gain a foothold on the market. But if their market share is to continue to grow, all actors along the global supply chains must be willing to do their bit to ensure greater sustainability. This also means embracing transparency and traceability as the basis for fair and sustainable agricultural trade.

In addition to general requirements concerning product quality, social and environmental standards have an important role to play in greening agricultural production and processing. For producers in the Global South, this positive trend is also a challenge, however, since their access to lucrative markets depends on them meeting the required standards. For regions that are reliant on just a small number of agricultural products, such as coffee, cocoa or cotton, compliance is essential if companies are to be economically viable.

More often than not, the demand for high product quality and sustainability at an affordable price poses a dilemma. It will only be possible to sustainably transform our agricultural and food systems if everyone in the global supply chain, from the producers to the retailers to the consumers, pulls together and is willing to shoulder the costs involved in bringing about greater social and environmental sustainability. Ultimately, the prosperity of producers and processing companies and the future of environmental protection lies in the hands of consumers in particular, shaped by the purchasing decisions they make.

On behalf of the German Government, GIZ advises its partners on quality standards for agricultural products and on voluntary and statutory social and environmental standards. We work to ensure that all actors implement these standards effectively and in line with national and international requirements, and that they have the skills, knowledge and capacity they need to do so.

We use multi-stakeholder partnerships that bring together producers, the private sector and civil society in producing and purchasing countries to continue developing standards and support their implementation. Examples include securing a living income and living wage for producers and the German Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains (LkSG).

Economic, social and environmental improvements in production and processing benefit not only the producers and processing companies in the producing countries but consumers, too.