Due to a multitude of risks within each business, it is crucial that we understand how important it becomes for a buyer, based locally or globally, to have an assessment of a business’s risks and what it has done or could still be done to improve or mitigate those risks. As part of this understanding of risk, audits need to be conducted as they provide an in-depth look and evaluation into the business’s risks – this can include risks on social aspects, environmental assurance or food safety/quality. The auditing process not only protects the business, but also creates trust/assurance throughout the value-chain and supports the South African agricultural industry.
Audit firms and auditors are core stakeholders of SIZA and a valuable partner towards ensuring compliance for all involved in the audit process. Although SIZA remains independent throughout the third-party audit process (to protect the credibility of the audit), the SIZA programme needs to establish support structures and competency requirements for auditors. It is also important that producers understand the role of auditors during the audit process. Auditors are not solely responsible for audit outcomes but are responsible to drive improvement through their expert evaluation of potential risks within each business. Auditors visit farms to evaluate, assess and report on business practices that are available to them to see, hear and read about during the audit.
Producers should realise when deciding to export their product to markets who require compliance assessments, audits are a crucial component of the process. The auditor and auditee need to treat each other respectfully and with dignity – without audits, there can be no visibility or credible assessment of a business’s risks and markets will not buy produce from producers without any assurance as their reputational credibility might be damaged.