Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my great honour and pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to this workshop on Improving the quality and safety of fresh fruits and vegetables: a practical approach. First of all, I wish to express FAO’s appreciation to the Post-Harvest and Products Processing Research and Development Office, Department of Agriculture of the Thailand Government, for co-organizing this important workshop with FAO.
FAO also wishes to thank the participants for attending the workshop and giving us their valuable time. It is hoped that the important issues associated with food quality and safety discussed here will be of benefit in producing high quality and safe fruits and vegetables, for both domestic and international markets.
Since it’s establishment in 1945, FAO has encouraged and assisted Member Countries with improvement of food quality and safety. This commitment was re-affirmed in November 1996 at the World Food Summit held in Rome. The summit drew the attention of world leaders and the international community to the need of radical and decisive actions to eliminate the plague of hunger and malnutrition that is affecting over 800 million people throughout the globe. The summit adopted the Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Summit Plan of Action.
To meet the objectives of the Rome Declaration on World Food Security, there is a need to improve food production, processing and distribution systems; develop greater efficiencies; and use all available technologies and best management practices. At the same time, there is the ever pressing need to provide an assurance to consumers that food they buy and consume is nutritionally adequate, safe and of good quality. For these reasons, FAO continues to give highest priority to its programmes associated with the production of high quality and safe food, and continues to give assistance to developing countries through technical cooperation projects and consultancies to develop food safety and quality policies and to build local capacities for safety and quality of fresh fruits and vegetables to supply domestic and export markets.
In the last four years, several regional FAO workshops in different regions have identified the need for integrated actions to address food safety and quality throughout the post-harvest chain and have shown the need for greater emphasis in the use of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) in primary production of fresh fruits and vegetables.
To accomplish this, FAO – with inputs provided by the workshops – is implementing the programme Global Inventory, Reference Materials and Food Safety Training Programme for Improving the Quality and Safety of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables to enhance information access and exchange as a means to improve the safe production, harvesting, handling, storage, transport and marketing of fresh fruits and vegetables. The focus is on the promotion of good agricultural, hygiene and manufacturing practices to prevent hazards along the food chain. Through activities carried out in partnership with public and private institutions, government officials and employees of food enterprises are learning about the importance of GAPs, GHPs and GMPs, and acquiring practical skills to improve the quality and safety of fresh produce.
Initially conducted in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, the programme is now expanding to Asian countries and later on to African countries. The objective is to strengthen the capability of the Asian countries to implement food safety and quality assurance programmes for fresh fruits and vegetables, exchange information and provide training for trainers’ courses. These trainers will then act as multipliers and replicate the expertise at national level in order to enhance awareness on the relevance and importance of applying integrated approaches to quality and safety initiatives from the producer to the final consumer.
The workshop starting today is the fifth among a series of workshops being carried out by FAO, and the first one in the Asian sub-region. During the workshop, emphasis will be given to the application of practices and principles of GAP, GMP and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) in the horticultural sector. A training manual has been prepared by FAO to support the national training courses. The manual’s contents were validated through the sub-regional workshops with the final text incorporating recommendations and contributions resulting from these workshops.
Successful implementation of quality and safety programmes in the horticultural sector certainly requires taking collective actions and the integration of private and public efforts. Your attendance to this workshop demonstrates the importance that the country you represent places on improving the quality and safety of fresh fruits and vegetables, whether imported or domestically produced, or used for domestic consumption or exported. This workshop will be a great opportunity for the Asian countries to share with other countries within the region their approaches to quality and safety issues, which allows knowledge already gained in each country to be shared with countries facing similar issues.
In closing, I would like to express my best wishes for a very successful workshop and my sincere desire that your involvement will be a profitable one.