Food Safety Conference in Tbilisi
FAO and EBRD launching public-private policy discussion on upgrading food safety and quality standards in Georgia
Food quality and safety standards were the focus of the forum “Food Safety in Georgia: Challenges and Opportunities”, which took place in Tbilisi, Georgia on 23 January 2014. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture of Georgia, organized this successful forum, which brought together private companies, government and other stakeholders to discuss forthcoming legislation to improve food safety and its potential impact on local agribusiness companies and farmers.
Top managers from over 60 local agricultural companies, leaders of farmers’ associations, and key policy-makers in government and the private sector examined changes currently under way in the country’s food safety and quality legislation, and the need to upgrade Georgia’s food safety and monitoring systems. The most significant changes include the Code of Food Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection, which will take effect in spring 2014, and other major updates that will result from the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) between Georgia and the European Union (EU), which has been signed but not yet ratified.
The forum was opened by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, David Natroshvili, the EBRD’s Director for Caucasus, Moldova and Belarus, Bruno Balvanera, and FAO’s Director of the Rural Infrastructure and Agro-Industries Division, Eugenia Serova. FAO and the EBRD are building on years of experience in food safety and quality standards in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus to assist Georgia in harmonising its standards with those of the EU for improved domestic food security and international market access.
“The EBRD is a key investor in the Georgian agribusiness sector. In line with the Bank’s efforts to further develop the private sector, it is important to identify the areas of investment required in the agribusiness field, in order to modernise it further and bring it closer to best international policies and standards. This will be a positive step in aligning Georgia with EU standards, in line with the DCFTA. This is the right time to discuss such an important issue among private producers and policy makers, to improve the performance of the agribusiness sector and to develop modern food supply channels and retail chains,” Said Bruno Balvanera.
One anticipated result of the forum is the creation of a public-private policy dialogue platform between agribusiness and the government to pave the way toward modernized value chains and an improved investment climate, and to ensure that new measures will be implemented in an efficient and inclusive manner.
“FAO and the EBRD have a good experience in organizing public-private policy dialogue in many countries in the region and found that it is a very powerful tool for improving investment environment for agribusiness. We had such dialogs on grain and dairy sectors in Russia and Ukraine, on Serbian meat and dairy sectors, Kyrgyz agribusiness investment climate and some others,” said Eugenia Serova. “Food safety is one of the critical issues for agribusiness development and we look forward to the opportunity to discuss forthcoming legislation to improve food safety together with private companies, government and other stakeholders."
Georgia’s agriculture and food industries will experience significant changes in the coming years. This forum was a momentous step towards helping them unite and actively interact with the government in order to take advantage of these changes, which will allow farmers and companies that produce and trade safer foods to gain greater market power.