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Agriculture minister criticized as food safety laws are announced

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Wednesday, June 15
As a result of an inspection carried out by the National Food Agency, administrative sanctions will be imposed on any establishment guilty of irregularities. Under the initiative of the Parliamentary Committee on European Integration, the Committee on Agrarian Issues considered the corresponding changes to the "Code of Administrative Violations of Law” with the first reading, on June 14. However the Agency's activities and the Minister of Agriculture has become the subject of criticism by the Parliamentary Minority, the Christian Democrats. The Movement called on Parliament to appeal to the President of Georgia with the recommendation to remove the Minister of Agriculture, Bakur Kvezereli, from the current post regarding ongoing food related problems.

According to the draft law, if a person will carry out food or animal feed related activities without the corresponding registration as an enterprise or distributor, he or she will be fined with GEL 30. In the event of the discovery of non-critical breach after an inspection, a fine of GEL 400 will be imposed however if a breach is deemed critical, the fine will be GEL 1000. According to the draft law, in the name of the National Food Agency, authorized persons from the National Food Agency will exercise the right to consider the cases of administrative violation and will have the right to impose administrative fees. The changes that shall be introduced to the law must be observed from 1 January only by the export-oriented food manufacturers, but from 3 January 2012 it will apply to all food or feed manufacturers.

However, the parliamentary minority, Christian Democrats, blamed the Agency, the authorities and the Minister of Agriculture Bakur Kvezereli in current food problems in the country, especially those concerning meat "we have raised the issue of responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture, however you defended him. He stated that new slaughtering facilities would be guarantee a GEL 10 price on quality meat, however, once again he failed and the price of meat reached GEL 20, " the Movement member, Levan Vepkhvadze, said. According to the leader of the Movement, Giorgi Targamadze, the authorities have decided to deal with the food safety problem in the simplest way, "people will not eat meat at all. Georgians would not be any longer be poisoned with meat as the meat price in Georgian markets is similar to the meat price in the centre of London." Christian Democrats also have mentioned the monopoly on the market.

The majority representatives claim that the Christian Democrats do not have much information on what the monopoly really means and they could not see how Kvezereli could be faulted for the increasing price of meat, "the Minister will not artificially get involved in the price of meat, it is not the Soviet period when the Ministers personally arranged the situation in each shop. Meat will be cheap, if its distribution is increased. A very careful attitude is needed towards food safety issues. This issue needs assistance, when this problem is settled, prices would be regulated," MP, Pavle Kublashvili, said.

According to the President of the Association of Young Financers and Businessmen, Merab Janiashvili , when the state sets some regulations, there will be a product deficit and an increase in price which is a very simple economic theory , " when the state decided that the cattle must be slaughtered only in certain slaughter houses, it of course ensured such an economic situation." However , according to the Chair of Food Agency's press service Veriko Gulua, this fact was not the cause of prices going up," some speculative groups had tried to artificially create a meat deficit on the market, which raised the price, however those slaughter houses distribute meat accordingly for Tbilisi and very soon the price will be regulated."

Analyst Gia Jandieri and some others suggest that once the Food safety system is up and running, the authorities will have to find an additional GEL 700 million, "it turned out that most Georgians use such products, and its safety is under a serious question mark. However such products are cheaper. If we refuse such cheaper imports, Georgians will have to buy more expensive food, which is practically unimaginable. At the same time, the number of people relying on the state's assistance would grow."