Unleashing the food production potential of Europe and Central Asia – while meeting consumer demand for higher-quality products – is the focus of a two-day meeting in Belgrade this week.
“Best food: How to produce both quality and quantity in Europe and Central Asia” is the challenge being analyzed and discussed by some 120 senior representatives of private companies, government officials, international financial institutions, development agencies, and donor governments, at the annual meeting of EastAgri.
The meeting is organized by FAO and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), with financial support from the World Bank.
Reaching new markets
Demand for quality food has become more sophisticated both in local and export markets. Consumers increasingly ask for food that is distinctive and safe. They expect products that respect the environment, rural communities, and small-scale and traditional producers.
Upgrading quality in the region’s food chains, tapping into high-value markets, exporting traditional products, origin-based labels and product certification, greening food chains, and limiting the environmental impact of food production are some of the topics under discussion.
Partnering for success
Delivering “best food” in Europe and Central Asia requires private sector investment as well as regulatory frameworks and policies, participants said.
“You can only produce the best food if you partner with the best private sector companies, promote best practices and policies and build strong partnerships with the best counterparts,” said Gilles Mettetal, Director of Agribusiness at the EBRD. “The EastAgri network is all about coordinating and aligning interventions within the agribusiness sector.”
“It is important to us that we are working in close partnership with different public institutions and the private sector in agriculture and rural sector development in the region, to increase efficiency and to support the sustainable economic development of the countries in the region,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia. “The EastAgri network is an important platform for the continuation and enhancement of the dialogue among the partners, and it will ensure that we are held accountable to meet our goals,” he added.
“The national policies should be structured in a way to enable synergies and complementarities between funding sources – be it cooperation between international financing institutions and commercial banks, and/or public funds coming both from country budgets or EU assistance," said Gerard Kiely, Head of the Pre-accession Assistance to Agriculture and Rural Development Unit of the European Commission.
An extension of the framework agreement between EBRD and FAO on the agribusiness sector is set to be signed during the course of EastAgri 2014.
EastAgri is an informal platform of key practitioners in agriculture, agribusiness financing, and rural development in Europe and Central Asia. Operating since 2002, it was founded by the EBRD, FAO, the World Bank and the Central European Initiative (CEI).
18 June 2014, Belgrade, Serbia