Transboundary Animal Disease Control for Poverty Reduction in the Greater Mekong Subregion: Cross-Border Livestock Identification and Traceability System (LITS)

Place: GMS, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar • Dates: 2015-2016 • Partner: ADB

Increased cross-border livestock trade in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) is changing disease risk landscapes, including higher incidence of tainted meat and meat fraud in regional markets. As part of ADB’s GMS Core Agriculture Support Program, Phase II (CASP 2), a regional livestock identification and traceability system (LITS) was piloted in order to gain insights into how to more effectively manage and mitigate regional disease risk. Implementation of this pilot project demonstrated that a low cost technology based regional traceability system is possible to implement. However, experience with the pilot implementation also serves as a reminder that many challenges remain before widespread implementation of a regional traceability system is fully possible. Nonetheless, in this type of system has potential to not only improve animal and public health outcomes, but contribute to higher value agrifood trade and regional poverty reduction.

In addition to more detailed information on patterns of GMS animal movements and disease reporting, our general finding is that conditions are ripe for improved oversight and trade facilitation. At the transboundary level, informal animal flows predominate in many areas, leading to higher transactions cots and significant uncertainties regarding health status and other product quality characteristics. These market failures promote adverse selection, limited supply chain engagement, and underinvestment, undermining public trust and leaving this category of regional agrifood development far below its potential to contribute to regional livelihoods. More specifically, the experience of the three country LITS pilots support the following policy recommendations:

  1. As regional integration progresses, GMS countries are facing dramatically changing agrifood market opportunities. To capture these effectively will require determined policy support for market access and supply chain modernization.
  2. Agrifood market expansion can be a potent catalyst for poverty reduction if policies support adoption of appropriate technologies and institutions. In the GMS, these include e-Traceability, certification, contracting, and producer cooperatives.
  3. Expanding agrifood markets present new opportunities and risks to the region, as increasingly diverse biological products and economic agency complicate the food safety landscape. Managing food safety, disease, and other risks will require technological modernization, including e-traceability to improve supply chain transparency and product quality accountability.
  4. Partnership with private sector actors can accelerate and reduce the public costs of supply chain modernization. Technologies like e-Traceabilty enhance private value and adoption/diffusion of these innovations can be self-financing if governments take a leadership role in establishing and administering standards.
  5. Regional government partnership for harmonized standards and adoption is essential to the credibility and effectiveness of supply chain technologies. Many of the potential benefits (e.g. product safety) of e-traceability cannot be sustained without transboundary coordination.
  6. Global trade partners, especially in the larger and more advanced economies, have strong incentives to support GMS agrifood modernization, and the sub-regional governments and their private sector agents should take full advantage of this to promote joint ventures, technology transfer, and export market access.
  7. This project demonstrates that modest initial public investments can be leveraged by low-cost use technologies to significantly improve supply chain performance and participation. GMS governments and their development partners should follow this example of innovation leadership and continue making targeted investments to overcome information-based market access barriers.
  8. The internet database platform developed for this project demonstrates its potential for universal information access. This presents opportunities for market transparency, but it also raises policy issues that should be addressed regarding privacy.
  9. The successful implementation and positive reception of the LITS cattle pilots indicates that they should be expanded to national programs, not only in the three countries studied, but across the GMS.
  10. Based on global experience with a wide array of other traceable agrifood products, the LITS results also indicate that e-traceability should be expanded to pilots for other animals including fish, fruits and vegetables, timber products, and many other live and processed agrifood products.

The project concluded with a workshop presenting our findings to delegates from each of the GMS countries. The proceedings of this meeting are documented separately, but after two days of review and dialog, the delegations unanimously endorsed the LITS project and its recommendations. The GMS sub-region is entering a period of rapid change, one that will present unprecedented opportunities and risks for the agrifood sector. Modernization of this sector to improve its information and incentive characteristics, as exemplified by e-Traceability, can play an essential role in realizing the region’s enormous potential for sustained and inclusive economic growth.

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