Retailer initiated food quality standards are important elements to market food and agricultural products. However, farmers’ certification proceeds at an unequal speed worldwide with some countries representing a large number of certified producers and others representing very few, if any. This study aims at analysing the adoption of two private food standards, BRC Food Technical Standard and GlobalGAP, at an aggregated cross-country level using data of 2007. Negative binomial models are applied to quantify the determinants of standards’ spread at an aggregated level. The results of the econometric analysis reveal some (potential) barriers for farms and firms in developing countries to access this type of organisational innovation. Certificates of both standards seem to be issued more likely in countries with established trade relations with Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, home countries of the standards. Furthermore, larger countries and countries with better institutional quality host more certified firms. Finally, a country’s level of economic development displays a clear non-monotonic relationship to the number of certified enterprises. Although no evidence for a general exclusion of developing countries can be found, the main implication of this paper is that third-party certification for export purposes seems to reinforce already existing trade relations, potentially hampering new entrants.