Food quality and safety standards were the focus of the forum “Food safety in Georgia: challenges and opportunities”, which took place in Tbilisi, Georgia today. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 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, which has been signed but not yet ratified.
The forum was opened by the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, David Natroshvili, 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 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 harmonizing its standards with those of the European Union for improved domestic food security and international market access.
Said Bruno Balvanera: “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 modernize 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.”
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 been pleased with the results of past public-private policy dialogue, particularly in the Ukrainian grain sector. This model has been replicated in the Ukrainian dairy sector, the Serbian meat and dairy sectors as well,” said Eugenia Serova. “We look forward to the opportunity to draw on best practices during this critical transition time in Georgia, for the benefit of value chain stakeholders, smaller producers, and the general public alike,” she added.
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.
EBRD is the largest private sector investor in Georgia. As at January 2014 the Bank had invested over €1.83 billion in Georgia through 165 projects in various sectors of economy.