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A project of Metro Group and ISACert involving over 450 suppliers from Bulgaria and Serbia has proven that there are efficient ways for boosting supplier compliance in food safety on a large scale. The project, utilizing the GFSI Global Markets Programme, was targeted at supporting Metro local suppliers to implement their Food Safety Management System (FSMS) and get certified. The project provided the local small and mid-sized food companies with tools to reach compliance, by engaging their existing resources effectively.

Food operators of any size can have an affordable and yet effective and sustainable FSMS which opens for them the doors to the global food supply chain”, says Vladislava Zapryanova, Founder and MD of Lucrima BV, a capacity building partnership and one of the main contributors to the project.

The traditional approach of reaching compliance with safety requirements imposes challenges both for buying and supplying companies. Suppliers are faced with the necessity to provide significant financial and human resources to meet requirements. And these do not necessarily bring sustainable results. As a logical consequence, a substantial number of suppliers restrain from taking this hardy path, and either sell their products to a less demanding buyers or apply a formalistic approach towards meeting the requirements. The buying companies as a result are pressed to adopt a very cautious approach towards new local suppliers thus limiting their sourcing options. This inevitably blocks the access of the majority of small and mid-sized local companies to international markets.

Within the project, the coordinated efforts of all parties involved have helped suppliers initiate and manage their time-framed programs for implementation and certification of the Food Safety Management Systems. Here is how:

After an enrolling phase, the supplier starts developing its own Food management system, considering the communicated buying requirements and the particular food safety and legislative risks. The supplier is provided with a localized training and implementation toolkit. The process of training and implementation is supported and mentored by a local expert. The level of implementation is verified by an assessment of the relevant level of the GFSI Global markets Programme. After the assessment, corrective and improvement measures are defined as the final goal is to reach accredited certification towards a GFSI- recognized scheme. After certification, the supplier gets continuous support for maintenance and further development of its management system by tapping into a variety of dedicated trainings and customized expertise on demand.

Most of the suppliers are typical micro, small and medium sized local manufacturers producing food throughout all categories. Over half of the involved suppliers got long-term advantage of the projects by supplying to Metro continuously and gained market access to the international food supply chain due to their GFSI recognized certfication. For Metro the project is a real success story having resulted in 93% of its Bulgarian and 96% of its Serbian private label suppliers achieving certification.

Based on the experience of this 5-year project and in order to add value to future supplier capacity building initiatives a set of key factors for success have been outlined recently:

  1. Commitment from both Buying and Supplying companies – both buying companies and supplying local producers need to have clear understanding about each other’s economic benefits from projects targeted at capacity building for compliance. Both parties need to commit to working for them in mutual favour.
  2. Ongoing support – it includes planning and setting of a timeframe and expected outcomes, regular ongoing communication, monitoring of progress and reporting of results. The supplier is provided with customized continuous support that compliments their available resources.
  3. Localization – to scale the international requirements to local terms (local language, local legislation, local economic conditions and specifics of local industry) by engaging local experts – trainers, assessors, consultants, Quality Assurance people are engaged.
  4. Added value for all parties involved. In order to be successful and sustainable, capacity building projects should bring economic benefits to all participating in the project – buyers, suppliers and service providers. Capacity building projects can be donor-funded or market based.
  5. Cost efficiency for both Buying and Supplying companies – the resources invested in the project must be commensurable with the economic effect it brings to the parties involved. Cost efficiency can be reached by utilizing existing resources with the parties involved, available technology and tools.
  6. Involvement of other stakeholders – the involvement of various stakeholders in the food supply chain such as international buying companies, their local suppliers, scheme owners, service providers, state authorities and sector organizations is important for creating a supportive setting for the capacity building project.

Vladislava Zapryanova noted: “The project has proven that the GFSI Global Markets Programme is an efficient route for smaller companies to achieve accredited certification and it simultaneously facilitates their access to new markets.

     

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