Why has the SPS control system failed in Pakistan?

In Pakistan’s SPS institutions, there is a widespread lack of understanding and awareness of modern SPS management systems, which hampers development of the control system. Controls remain organized on the basis of commodity groups (such as plants, livestock, fish) reflecting functions of Government departments, rather than being arrangement in terms of the functions and risks to be controlled (that is animal health, plant health and food safety). At present most people consider “control“ to be a question of sampling and testing a product before it passes to the market. However, controls must be applied throughout the supply chain in an integrated system (the “farm to fork” principle). For example if a test reveals a plant disease agent in an export consignment, the appropriate control response is to identify the source, determine the extent of the disease, apply controls to limit the spread and eliminate the source of disease. At present, there are no systems in place to apply this approach to any SPS hazards identified.

As a result Federal Departments of Animal Quarantine (under MoLDD) and Plant Protection (under MinFA) work exclusively with import/export controls, with no focused effort to integrate activities with controls applied at the domestic level in Pakistan. There is no focus of responsibility at federal level for food safety. Where food safety functions are required at federal level (for example in relation to exports) these are undertaken by various bodies e.g. fish inspection by Marine Fisheries Department and meat inspection activities by Animal Quarantine Department. The Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) under the Ministry of Science and Technology also undertake mandatory food safety controls (sampling and testing of some commodities against PSQCA standards).

On the other hand, Provincial authorities responsible for SPS functions do not receive clear guidance and information from the Federal Government. They develop technical regulations which differ between Provinces, and apply them differently, which if applied to products traded internationally risks breaching Pakistan’s WTO obligations. In some cases, there is only limited capacity to ensure SPS controls at places of production (such as fishing vessels & landing sites, farms). The result is that controls remain poorly applied, if at all, at the level of the producer (which is from where they mostly originate).

Posted in: SPS