Food Industry Asia seeks to drive food safety agenda in Greater Mekong Subregion

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12 Sep 2017 --- Food Industry Asia (FIA) has pledged that it will support the six countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) in building capacity and strengthening food safety systems across the region. Representing the private sector, FIA says it will bring together governments, policymakers and industry leaders through high-level dialogue to drive the food safety agenda.

FIA’s commitment was made at a conference on the “GMS: Towards Inclusive, Safe, and Sustainable Agriculture Value Chains,” held recently in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which ended with The Second GMS Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting (GMS AMM-2).

Brought together for discussions
The GMS is made up of the Kingdom of Cambodia; the People’s Republic of China, specifically Yunnan province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region; the Lao People’s Democratic Republic; the Republic of the Union of Myanmar; the Kingdom of Thailand; and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
 
The AMM-2 brought together the agriculture ministers from these countries, each of which are reported to have endorsed the GMS Strategy and Siem Reap Action Plan for Promoting Safe and Environment-Friendly Agro-Based Value Chains in the GMS for 2018-2022. 

Working with the GMS Working Group on Agriculture (GMS WGA) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB), FIA reports that it engaged in a series of discussions with senior officials of the GMS ministries of agriculture, including a formal public-private dialogue and roundtable. The food industry body also facilitated a policy forum on food safety and sustainable management of land and water for the production of a reliable supply of safe and quality agri-food products, which highlighted the role of agri-food value chains in the development of the subregion, particularly its potential for agritourism.
 
“Our ambition is to have strong collaboration between the private and public sectors in the GMS through sustainable multi-stakeholder partnerships designed to improve food safety standards through a range of capacity-building efforts,” Mr. Matt Kovac, FIA’s Executive Director, says.
 
In support of these efforts, representatives from FIA member companies Cargill, Nestlé, GS1 and Waters Corporation participated in the AMM-2 and related discussions.
 
Positive collaborations
Mr. Kim Keat Ng, Chairman of FIA’s Science and Technical Committee, delivered a statement at the AMM-2, detailing the commitment made by FIA. He highlighted a number of areas for collaboration that are expected to immediately yield positive results, including:
 
1. Traceability through the piloting of GS1 barcode-based systems for facilitation and monitoring of cross-border trade, as well as the establishment of Government-to-Government, Business-to-Government and Government-to-Business data sharing;
2. Establishment of mechanisms for laboratory capacity-building across leadership, management and technical levels;
3. Food safety risk communication through the collaborative development of the ICT platforms such as AINS 2.0 as a GMS food safety communication tool and knowledge repository unit; 
4. Promotion of the harmonization of food safety standards that will enhance trade through the facilitation of public-private dialogues;
5. Enhancing national legislation and regulations on food safety through public-private forums.
 
FIA, according to Mr. Ng’s statement, “recognizes that a regional approach to food policy, driven by private and public interests, will enhance protection of consumers and suppliers in the GMS, support scaling up of productivity and quality of products, and thus facilitate product marketing.”
 
“Using the power of partnership, FIA and the GMS WGA have the opportunity to improve food safety in the region through multi-stakeholder efforts, with the adoption of a risk-based approach built on successful models that address the whole supply chain, while simultaneously promoting a climate for sustainable growth,” the statement adds.
 
FIA reports that the GMS WGA reacted positively to the suggestions provided by Mr. Ng on FIA's behalf. In the coming months, the FIA says the working group will make progress on how those suggestions can be pushed forward, as well as other initiatives that will ensure the production of safe and environmentally friendly food, while forging closer links between the GMS’s ministries of agriculture and FIA.

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