FAO Liaison Office with the Russian Federation

Armen Harutyunyan: “Joint work with FAO gets an ‘excellent’ this year”

Photo: ©FAO/Vladimir Mikheev
07/12/2023

What challenges do the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) countries face in terms of ensuring food security? How is the partnership between the Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC) and FAO developing? Armen Harutyunyan, Director of the Agricultural Policy Department of EEC, answered these and other questions from Vladimir Mikheev, Press Secretary of the FAO Moscow Office, at the 16th Verona Eurasian Economic Forum held in Samarkand (Uzbekistan) in November.

– Do you consider the Global Food Security Index in your work?

– The EEC Agricultural Policy Department regularly monitors integral indicators of food security generated by international organizations, FAO and The Economist. Unfortunately, the Global Food Security Index is not calculated for Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, which makes it impossible to conduct a comparative analysis.

It is also important to note that this indicator is an aggregator of key indicators and not only covers economic indicators but also considers social and political aspects related to food security, its quality and safety. In addition, the Global Index uses indicators based on expert assessments.

Given that the EAEU is a trade and economic union, we pay more attention to economic indicators and assess the level of food security based on the methodology approved by all Union member countries.

According to our estimates, the overall level of self-sufficiency across the Union is 93%. The five countries fully satisfy their domestic needs for grain, pork, vegetables and potatoes, vegetable oils, sugar, and eggs from their own resources. The only lack of products concerns fruit and berries. It is important to emphasize that supplies from Uzbekistan as one of the key trade partners contribute to increasing availability of these products in the Union.

How is the partnership of the Union member countries developing in the agrifood field?

– The EEC is not only a body for the preparation of regulatory legal documents but also a platform for discussing the business community challenges, as well as prospects and opportunities for enhancing cooperation between the countries of the Union and increasing the efficiency of specific industries. We have relevant mechanisms for that. In order to encourage industrial cooperation, a mechanism for financial assistance in the implementation of Eurasian projects has been created. We are also working on expanding this mechanism to the agro-industrial complex.

A Memorandum in the area of training personnel for the industry and the agro-industrial complex was signed in late 2021 in order to deepen the partnership between higher educational institutions and scientific organizations of the Union countries. Joint educational courses on the relevant industry areas from the interested agrarian institutions in the Union countries became the outcome of its implementation.

In addition, the EEC has created a map for the development of the EAEU agricultural industry, which contains information about the agro-industrial projects that are ongoing or promising in terms of their implementation in the countries of the Union. The map includes major projects aimed at addressing the issues of import substitution and saturating the common agricultural market with goods from the Union countries, as well as cooperation projects involving interstate interaction, mutual supplies of raw materials or finished products, and the development of innovative technologies.

– What recommendations does the EEC give to business in the Union countries consideringanti-Russian sanctions?

– If we look at the statistics, we will see an increase in production and mutual trade in agricultural products and food. From 2015 to 2022, agricultural production in the EAEU grew by 24.1%, and mutual supplies almost doubled.

Restrictions on supplies from third countries facilitate, to a certain extent, the development of intra-Union trade and create opportunities for the EAEU member states to fill the emerging gaps.

Despite this, any business initiative, any enterprise establishment need to take into account the competitive environment in a free economic area.

For instance, the opportunities for economic growth are obvious. Organic agriculture, for example, has great potential not only within the Union. Businesses worldwide are showing interest in this sector, which has already become a sustainable trend. Nevertheless, the legislation regulating organic agriculture in the countries of the Union varies greatly. There are even differences in the definition of what “organic” is, as well as discrepancies in the use of such terms as “eco”, “bio”, “eco-friendly”, etc.

Within the Commission, we have concluded that we need to enter into an international agreement with fixed and agreed upon concepts and terms. With that in mind, all the agreements have to follow the best practices approved worldwide and the norms of the FAO-WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission on Food Standards. We really do need universal standards to apply them within the Union, but they have to be consistent with the international ones. I hope that we will be able to sign such an agreement next year.

– In your opinion, what are the three most pressing issues in the agro-industrial sector that require urgent solutions?

– Today, these are material and technical support of the agro-industrial complex, human capital development (staff development and mastering new skills) and increasing the share of production and export of goods with high added value.

– How interesting and fruitful is the cooperation with FAO for the Eurasian Economic Commission?

– We signed and successfully implemented an Action Plan with FAO. I would like to thank both the Budapest Headquarters and the FAO Moscow Office for the support in almost all our activities. We intend to include in the new Action Plan such areas of cooperation as selective breeding, seed production, digitalization, and the application of new technologies in agriculture.

During our recent visit to Budapest, we secured technical support from FAO in a number of areas. Taking into account that the EAEU countries are not self-sufficient enough in terms of fruit and vegetables, we, together with FAO, conducted research and prepared a report containing specific recommendations for those involved in this sector. The report was provided to all member countries of the Union.

FAO is also ready to help us finalize our report on organic agriculture. For this purpose, FAO provides us with the necessary contacts of organizations directly dealing with this field.

Thus, I would give an “excellent” to our joint work with FAO this year!

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

The Eurasian Economic Commission (EEC)is a permanent regulatory body of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU). It started its work on 2 February 2012.

 

The main purpose of the Eurasian Economic Commission is ensuring the conditions for the functioning and development of the EAEU, and developing proposals for the further enhancement of integration.

There are currently five EEC countries: the Republic of Armenia, the Republic of Belarus, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and the Russian Federation.

The EEC has supranational regulatory body status, and its activity is guided by the interests of the participating countries of the Eurasian economic integration project in general, and its decisions are not based on the interests of any national government. Decisions of the Commission are obligatory for execution on the territory of the EAEU member countries.

The decision to establish the EEC is based on the understanding that the five countries together will not only be able reduce the negative impacts of global instability, but also actively position themselves in foreign markets. The Eurasian Economic Union is open to other states that share the goals of this association and are ready to assume the required obligations.

The most important feature of the Commission is the fact that all decisions are made collectively.

 

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The views expressed in this information product are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).