Nut & Agricultural Products Section
Banu Sinar, Setton International Foods
One of the most important activities carried out by the Nut & Ag Section over the years has been the creation and subsequent updates of standards for four products sold by members of the section: cashew kernels, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and dried apricots. The standards focus primarily on quality issues for the four products.
The standards were adopted many years ago after much input from both a scientific and commercial standpoint. In fact, the introduction to the apricots standard says: “This standard outlines specifications for Fancy, Natural and Industrial Quality dried apricots. It is a consolidation of the USDA, FDA, Codex, Turkish Government and U.S. trade standards, historically recognized by the importing community organized under the Nut and Agricultural Products Section of AFI.” Those standards quickly became the standards against which those products were sold, not only to U.S. buyers but to buyers around the world.
Updates to the standards have been made periodically over the years. It often starts with a suggestion by one or more members. The suggested changes are then shared with technical experts and others throughout the world that trade in that particular product. No change is ever made without seeking input from importers and suppliers of the product. The goal is to give all interested parties, including trade associations in producing countries, the opportunity to provide input to ensure the suggested changes are valid and attainable. The final step in the process is a vote by the membership.
I bring this up because the 2018 AFI Convention, which will have taken place by the time you read this, will include preliminary discussions seeking any suggested changes to the standard. It’s likely most or all of the proposed changes will simply be clarifications to make the existing standards as clear as possible. But the idea here is to remind everyone that the standards exist and that they need to be reviewed on occasion to make certain they are as effective as possible. I’m hopeful that by the time you read this we’ll have started the process of reaching out to the rest of the industry to get additional feedback on any suggested changes and that any suggested changes will be voted on by the summer of 2018. All four standards are available on the Resources section of the AFI website: www.afius.org. If any standards are updated, the updated versions will appear on the site immediately.
While we’re going through a process initiated by the association this time out, as noted above, that doesn’t have to be the case. Anyone in the trade can suggest a change to any of the standards at any time. Unlike government standards which understandably can take a long time to be changed, AFI’s standards can be updated quickly because of our ability to efficiently reach out to members of the trade. I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity to provide input.
This sort of activity is a great example of the benefits of belonging to an industry association. For those trading in products such as imported tree nuts, dried fruits, seeds and pulses, AFI has been a valuable resource for more than 110 years. The association provides us with ongoing, valuable information focused on our products and there’s value both for U.S. importers and foreign suppliers. Importers know they’ll be in the know with regard to regulations and issues regarding their products. Foreign suppliers will get that same information and save money by not having to pay for an FDA agent because AFI will provide that service at no cost to any member of the association. Importers can also rest a little easier when their foreign suppliers join the association because they know their suppliers will have reliable FDA agent services and also be receiving timely information about continuing to comply with U.S. regulations and therefore lessen the chances of any issues.
Additionally, membership in AFI is a company membership, so everyone in your firm can be sent the information distributed by the association and everyone in the firm can contact the association for help with issues. I encourage employees at other member companies to get the most of your firm’s membership by attending AFI events and I encourage those reading this with companies that are not yet AFI members to join the association soon.