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Completed project

Quality assurance harmonisation: Implementation (AH14015)

Key research provider: Kitchener Partners
Publication date: Friday, December 30, 2016

What was it all about?

The Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS) is the result of extensive collaboration between Hort Innovation and Australia’s major food retailers (ALDI, Coles, Costco, Metcash (IGA) and Woolworths). HARPS was announced to the horticulture industry at the PMA Fresh Connections conference in May 2016 and launched to industry later that year in October.

The key outcomes from this project were:

  • A single quality assurance audit that will satisfy the food safety requirements of all the major grocery retailers in Australia.

  • The harmonisation of multiple retailer-specific requirements that will provide efficiencies for growers and packers.

  • Growers and packers will be able to choose from three internationally recognised and Global Food Safety Initiative-benchmarked standards (British Retail Consortium, Safe Quality Food Institute and GLOBALG.A.P.) as well as the Australian-developed standard Freshcare (in the process of achieving GFSI recognition).

  • An Auditor Competency Scheme, which will provide increased rigor in the area of auditor competency. Retailers will select certification bodies and their respective auditors, with competency training of auditors being managed as part of the initiative, ensuring consistency and alignment in the audit process.

  • An online information portal, www.harpsonline.com.au, that will provide the means to access information about HARPS, and built with growers, suppliers, certification bodies and auditors in mind.

  • There will be continued confidence in the food safety systems of fresh produce grown in Australia (which is critical for both domestic and international markets). In order to transition to the harmonised solution there a number of activities that need to be completed, in order for the retailers to be completely confident in adopting the changes, and to also ensure that growers, suppliers, certification bodies and auditors understand and are prepared for the changes that will occur.

All the major grocery retailers have come together collaboratively to identify and develop a harmonised solution that will help reduce the cost and complexity for growers in meeting the requirements of different retailers. The outcomes from this project will particularly benefit the smaller growers that are increasingly struggling to maintain profitable businesses, but ultimately cost savings will flow through the supply chain and also benefit the retailers and consumers.

According to Nielsen (2015), the fresh produce market share covered by these businesses is approximately 80 per cent of the total Australian retail market.