Seed Potato Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and the work of the UNECE

The New Zealand potato in­dus­try has op­er­ated a seed potato cer­ti­fi­ca­tion scheme for 90 years. In that time yields have in­creased from 14 tonnes per hectare, to an av­er­age of 51 tonnes.

NZ Grower - - Product Groups - By Dr Stephen Og­den

The scheme must con­tinue to adapt, in­no­vate, and re­spond to grower needs, and to do this we need to look out­wards and see what the rest of the world is do­ing in seed potato cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Amongst our wide net­work of con­tacts and in­ter­ac­tions, Pota­toes New Zealand is an ac­tive par­tic­i­pant in the work of the UNECE Spe­cial­ized Sec­tion on Stan­dard­iza­tion of Seed Pota­toes.

So what is the UNECE?

The United Na­tions Eco­nomic Com­mis­sion for Europe is one of five re­gional eco­nomic com­mis­sions op­er­at­ing un­der the United Na­tions, and the most ac­tive in the area of agri­cul­tural qual­ity stan­dards. The UNECE was es­tab­lished in 1947 to en­cour­age eco­nomic co­op­er­a­tion and de­vel­op­ment in post-war Europe. UNECE in­cludes 56 mem­ber States in Europe, North Amer­ica and Asia, but all United Na­tions mem­ber States can par­tic­i­pate in the work of UNECE, and over 70 in­ter­na­tional pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tions and other non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions take part in UNECE ac­tiv­i­ties. The Spe­cial­ized Sec­tion on Stan­dard­iza­tion of Seed Pota­toes

The UNECE Spe­cial­ized Sec­tion on Stan­dard­iza­tion of Seed Pota­toes has the aim of fa­cil­i­tat­ing fair in­ter­na­tional trade by cre­at­ing a har­mo­nized com­mer­cial qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem, and har­mo­nized qual­ity re­quire­ments for seed pota­toes. Par­tic­i­pants in this work are a group of ex­perts who are ac­tively in­volved in op­er­at­ing seed potato cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems in their own coun­tries at a se­nior level.

As you would ex­pect, the group has strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Euro­pean coun­tries, but also from the USA and Canada. In the last six years, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the New Zealand, South African, and Aus­tralian seed potato cer­ti­fi­ca­tion schemes have be­come in­creas­ingly in­volved in the Spe­cial­ized Sec­tion. This has had a pos­i­tive im­pact on the work of the group, bring­ing fresh per­spec­tives and en­cour­ag­ing the group to adopt a more in­ter­na­tional fo­cus. The UNECE Stan­dard on seed pota­toes sets out the min­i­mum stan­dards for qual­ity of seed pota­toes, in­clud­ing clas­si­fi­ca­tions, in­spec­tion and sam­pling, tol­er­ances, pack­ag­ing, and la­belling. The Stan­dard is con­stantly re­viewed and any changes go through a rig­or­ous ap­proval process.

To help cer­ti­fi­ca­tion au­thor­i­ties to im­ple­ment the Stan­dard (and their own schemes), the Spe­cial­ized Sec­tion has de­vel­oped a se­ries of guides. Th­ese are not part of the stan­dard, but pro­vide ad­vice on how to ap­ply the stan­dard. Th­ese in­clude the “UNECE Guide to Seed Potato Dis­eases, Pests and De­fects” (and a dis­ease app), the “UNECE Guide to Seed Potato Field In­spec­tion”, the “UNECE Guide to Seed Potato Tu­ber In­spec­tion” and the “UNECE Guide to Op­er­at­ing a Seed Potato Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Ser­vice”.

The Sec­tion also re­views virus test­ing meth­ods, emerg­ing pests and dis­eases, devel­op­ments in true seed pro­duc­tion, stan­dards for mini­tu­ber and tis­sue cul­ture fa­cil­i­ties, and stan­dards for sam­pling and in­spec­tion. As a part of the United Na­tions

Sys­tem, the Spe­cial­ized Sec­tion also con­trib­utes to ca­pac­ity de­vel­op­ment and the Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

Why be part of this group? The work of the group is de­scribed above. All of the work is vol­un­tary, mem­bers of the group take on ad­di­tional work that is over and above their day to day jobs. With­out will­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion, the work of the Spe­cialised Sec­tion would not get done. I am con­vinced that the will­ing­ness of the South­ern Hemi­sphere par­tic­i­pants to be in­volved has rein­vig­o­rated the work pro­gramme.

But as well as the for­mal work pro­gramme, at ev­ery meet­ing there are present 15 to 25 of the most ex­pe­ri­enced and knowl­edge­able seed potato cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ex­perts from around the globe. This pro­vides a unique op­por­tu­nity for us to learn about new meth­ods, devel­op­ments, chal­lenges and prac­tices both dur­ing the meet­ing and af­ter­wards.

As chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Clar­idge put it at a re­cent Seed Potato Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Author­ity meet­ing, Pota­toes NZ val­ues par­tic­i­pa­tion in this fo­rum and oth­ers like it as they demon­strate that the NZ Seed Potato Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Scheme is on a par with in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, gives ac­cess to lat­est knowl­edge and trends, sup­ports the sta­tus of seed from which ex­port pota­toes are grown, will add to in­dus­try con­fi­dence, and en­hance the sta­tus of the New Zealand potato in­dus­try as a de­sir­able in­dus­try for in­vest­ment.

Dr Og­den is sec­re­tary, New Zealand Seed Potato Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Author­ity

◀ Palais des Na­tions (the Palace of Na­tions), Geneva

▴ One of the UNECE seed potato pub­li­ca­tions

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