FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Georgia’s anchovy industry steps closer to international markets

Black Sea anchovies and other marine fish are an important food source for Georgia. With new standards of hygiene and food safety in place, the country can also look forward to exporting processed fish to international markets.

State-of-the-art laboratory equipment, training for laboratory technicians and inspectors, and comprehensive regulations and procedures for seafood testing were provided through a recently concluded FAO project.

Seafood testing to international standards can now be conducted by the laboratory of the Georgia’s Ministry of Agriculture. For the laboratory, this is an important towards obtaining international accreditation, which will enable farmers, cooperatives and business operators to export their certified products to the European Union.

In parallel with the laboratory component, FAO arranged training sessions for food inspectors of the National Food Agency and for fish industry representatives. Participants learned how to control and maintain good hygiene conditions while landing, processing and packaging Black Sea anchovies.

“Our major aim was to support the Government’s ongoing efforts towards harmonization of the food inspection and certification system with EU requirements,’’ said Mamuka Meskhi, FAO Assistant Representative in Georgia. “I am confident that the results of FAO’s assistance will contribute to achieving Georgia’s proposed inclusion in the list of countries eligible to export fish and fish products to the EU market.”

Experts from the Ministry of Agriculture laboratory received training under the two-year project at the Institute of Food Safety, Animal Health and Environment in Riga, Latvia. Study visits to advanced, accredited laboratories enabled sharing of international experience in seafood testing and analysis.

In collaboration with the International Organization for the Development of Fisheries in Eastern and Central Europe (EUROFISH), FAO experts produced a “Quality Manual” for use by National Food Agency inspectors. Fish inspectors also received copies of relevant EU legislation, and checklists for performing inspections at landing sites and in fish processing plants. Inspection simulation exercises provided them with practical training.

“This quality manual will facilitate the International accreditation of the Laboratory of Ministry of Agriculture,” said FAO technical expert Vadims Bartkevich, “since test reports issued by the accredited laboratory act as a ‘passport to trade’. “The confidence this accreditation brings, eliminates the need for suppliers to be certified in each country in which they sell their products, and consequently provides the framework for goods to cross borders in Europe and throughout the world.”

Tinatin Kevkhishvili is chief specialist-inspector with the National Food Agency’s Department of Food and Inspection. “Having hands-on training was a wonderful opportunity for me and for all of my colleague inspectors,” she said. “We examined the fishing vessels, fish storage facilities, and processing equipment.”

Training in fish processing was provided to fish industry workers, at the Paliastomi anchovy-processing plant in the port city of Poti. Basic hygiene principles for processing salted and marinated anchovies were demonstrated.

Jogeir Toppe, lead technical officer for the project, thinks the issue of food safety is urgent, especially if the country plans to export fish products. “Georgia has to prove that it has a system in place to ensure its fish products are safe to be eaten,” he said.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture Iuri Nozadze thanked FAO for its assistance in developing Georgia’s fish sector. “This is one more step toward the European market,” he said.

4 January 2016, Tbilisi, Georgia