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ImageAs a potential exporter to the European market, it is important to do some research on the EU market and to find out whether there is a demand for your product in the EU; if your product fits the taste of the EU consumers and possibly which country/countries you should focus on exporting to.

Having established that you want to export to the EU market, the next step is finding out what the requirements are for your products if they were to be marketed in the EU. Buyer requirements, or market access requirements, are all the requirements you can expect from your EU buyer. They can be divided into two groups: legislation and additional (non-legal) requirements.

Legal Requirements
The EU legislation sets the basis for requirements in all Member States.  Legal requirements are the basis for market entry and products marketed in EU must meet these requirements. These requirements are established by law and must be adhered to by all producers who want to export to the EU market. Any product that fails to meet these requirements is not allowed in the EU market.

Non-legal requirements (Additional requirements)

Additional requirements go beyond legislation, as companies can go further in their requirements than legislation. The main categories of additional requirements are environmental requirements and social (labour) requirements.
 
EU requirements vs. national requirements

Once you know which country to focus on within the EU, you can find out if it has additional national requirements for your product.  Legislation in the EU is primarily set at EU level, but there may be country-specific (additional) legal requirements. The EU consists of 27 countries, and although maximum harmonisation is aimed at, this is not always achieved as a result of negotiations and national interests.

Legal product requirements for coffee and tea in the EU

Coffee and tea are grouped under the ‘food ingredients category’. The main focus on requirements for all food ingredients in the EU is consumer safety. This has lead to the introduction of legal requirements focusing on hygiene and traceability, emphasizing the importance of guaranteeing hygiene measures throughout the chain “from farm to fork” in order to guarantee the products marketed in the EU is safe.

 In this Issue
 Legal requirements
 Non-legal requirements
 EU requirements vs. national requirements
 Legal product requirements for coffee and tea in the EU
 Social Requirements
 Coffee and various certifications
 Tea and ethical trade partnerships
 Environmental Requirements

In addition, EU legislation establishes maximum levels for certain pesticides (expressed as MRLs, Maximum Residue Levels) and contaminants that can be present in food. The limits are set per food-contaminant/pesticide combination. The EU MRLs legislation includes the group “Tea, coffee, herbal infusions and cocoa”. The contaminant ochratoxin for example, is relevant for coffee and cocoa.
The examples of EU food legislation applicable to all food products marketed in the EU are
•    The General Food Law (Regulation (EC) 178/2002)
•    Hygiene of foodstuffs (Regulations (EC) 852/2004; 853/2004; 854/2004)

The examples of legislation contaminants in the food product marketed in the EU:
•    Maximum residue levels (MRLs) in foodstuffs (Regulation (EC) 396/2005)
•    Contaminants in food (Regulation (EC) 1881/2006)

The examples of legislation specifically focusing on certain food ingredients:
•    Coffee and chicory extracts (Directive 1999/4/EC)
•    Cocoa and chocolate products (Directive 2000/36/EC)
•    EU organic food legislation Regulation 2092/91

The examples of EU packaging legislation
•    Materials coming into contact with food (Regulation 1935/2004)
•    General requirements on packaging (Directive 94/62/EC)
Full legal text and details for each regulation can be accessed at the CBI website http://www.cbi.eu and also at the European Commission website http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex

Social Requirements

Social requirements are often based on ILO’s basic standards, laying down principles on what is perceived as the most important labour issues. These concerns among others include basic safety conditions for workers such as occupational health and safety and no use of child labour or forced labour. The basic ILO standards are widely used by international companies and as a basis for the development of international management systems such as Social Accountability SA8000, as well as industry initiatives like ICI, International Cocoa Initiative.

Many companies seek close cooperation with producers when dealing with social issues in the supply chain. In some cases, companies choose to become certified by an independent certifier, or take part in industry initiatives, or work together on certain issues with special interest groups such as NGOs. Although supplier requirements are not always a must in the selection, performance and awareness may play a role when making a decision between equally strong suppliers competing the EU market.

Coffee and various certifications
The coffee market in the EU is increasingly becoming sustainably certified and has moved
beyond being a niche market into the shelves of mainstream products. The best-known
schemes are ‘Utz Kapeh’ Standard, Common Code for the Coffee Community ‘4C’ and Fair trade. There are differences between buyers and countries, for instance Utz Kapeh holds a large market
share in the Netherlands where one of the largest supermarkets, Ahold, have certified all their
coffee against the Utz Kapeh standard. Large roasters like Nestlé, Kraft and Sara Lee and other retailers such as COOP work with 4C. Another certification scheme is that of Rainforest
Alliance, which also works with multinationals such as KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.

Tea and ethical trade partnerships
The tea trade is dominated by multinationals and the most important initiative in this sector is the Ethical Tea Partnerships ‘ETP’. The ETP is based on the ILO conventions and collective bargaining agreements. Companies such as Unilever, Twining & Co, Sara Lee, and Tetley’s take part in the initiative, which means that the market impact is significant. Besides the ETP, Unilever (market leader) also has its own sustainable development programme for tea production. Unilever has also started working on Rainforest Alliance certification for its major tea brand Lipton, which should increase this market share in the future.

Fair-trade tea still a small niche market at around 1% of the total market. The UK is by far the largest market for fair trade tea in the EU. Supermarkets which are under the retailers work with their own initiatives, such as BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) which is an initiative of European buyers, BRC (British Retail Consortium) developed by British retailers in the food sector to guarantee food safety, hygiene and quality and Ethical trade initiative.

Environmental Requirements

EU legislation restricts issues such as pesticides and contaminants in the food products marketed in the EU. Production processes, however, are not allowed to be regulated by the EU outside its borders (except when there is a direct link to the final product). In this view, many companies add to EU legislation by following national (host-country) or international legislation concerning environmental requirements for its production facilities. Many companies also aim at minimizing the use of raw material, water and waste. One way of improving environmental performance is introducing an environmental management system. The most common one is ISO 14001, which is also used in this sector, just as ISO 9001 on quality. Becoming ISO certified, however, is normally not a requirement for suppliers.

Looking at how an environmental management system works and introducing elements thereof may, however prove beneficial both to your company processes and in view of potential buyers. Going one step further is looking for environmentally-friendly alternatives to replace conventional ones. Certain companies focus only on the organic niche market, and in order to become a supplier for these companies your products must be organically certified. Many large companies work together with non-governmental organisations or other interest groups in order to produce (part of their) products in a more environmentally-friendly manner.

Many of the initiatives presented in the section on social requirements also include some environmental requirements. In order to enter the EU, however, organically/environmentally-friendly produced products is not a major requirement, but rather represents a good business opportunity when finding buyers.
The organic markets for coffee, cocoa and tea are growing and could for interesting opportunities for suppliers and producers.

 Source: The 2009 CBI Market survey for coffee, tea and cocoa

 

 
 
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