GMS gets closer to a food safety strategy

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The draft strategy on GMS food safety also covers the cross-border trade in live animals. Reuters

A draft five-year strategy for promoting safe and environment-friendly agriculture products in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) that would enhance regional food safety and promote trade is expected to be finalised today, according to the Asian Development Bank.

“The five-year Regional Strategy and Action Plan (2018-2022) for Promoting Safe and Environmentally-Friendly Agro-based Value Chains focuses on making the region a global player in safe agricultural-based food products produced through sustainable and climate resilient means,” said Edgar Valenzuela, a communication and knowledge management specialist with the ADB.

“The strategy would seek to be inclusive, taking the needs of small-scale farmers and enterprises into consideration,” said Mr Valenzuela.

He added that the strategy would be finalised today at the ongoing 14th annual GMS agricultural working group meeting in Siem Reap organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and reviewed again in September, before it is adopted.

Pavit Ramchandran, an ADB senior environment specialist, echoed Mr Valenzuela’s comments.

“The focus will be on inclusiveness for, and the impacts on, small-scale farmers and micro- and small-agricultural enterprises in the GMS,” said Mr Pavit.

Mr Pavit said the working group also discussed the outcomes of the highly successful GMS one-stop market pavilion and the policy forum organised at the recently concluded World of Food Asia 2017 in Thailand.

The GMS, comprising Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, is a major food-producing region. The region has comparative advantages in specific food supply, built upon its abundant natural resources, low costs of production, proximity to large markets, and a variety of unique food items.

“The overriding theme of the regional strategy for 2018 – 2022 will be on establishing a food safety regime in the GMS that aligns with regional and international standards,” stated the draft strategy.

According to the draft strategy, agricultural and food trade is growing rapidly in the GMS and food safety would enable it “to move further along the value-added path” and attract more foreign direct investment.

“The continuity  of  its  landmass,  the  rapid  development  of its economic  corridors,  and  the  diversity  of  its agro-ecological environment make the GMS uniquely placed within Asean to be a leader in the agrifood trade,” added the draft strategy.

The draft strategy also warned that porous  borders  throughout  the  GMS  present  the  risk  that  unscrupulous  business  enterprises could harm consumers  through  the  distribution  of unsafe  food  products.

“Therefore, it is essential that coordination of policies and border control are enacted by GMS countries to harmonise protocols and practices related to trade of seed, fertiliser, animal feed, pesticides, food, and live animals to protect the health of crops, livestock, and people,” it added. (Additional reporting by Sonny Inbaraj Krishnan)

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