Food safety a priority in Georgia
By Anna Robakidze
Friday, August 31New grants will be provided for the further development and modernization of agriculture and also to build up institutions which will be responsible for future political and economical integration with the EU.
The EU has initiated a new annual plan within the framework of the Eastern Partnership. The first part of the project will serve in the development of the agricultural sector, especially of small farmer associations and on state institutions which focus on the needs in farming sector. Training courses and consultations will be held in order to improve the level of food safety in the country.
The second part of the project is initiated to support institutional reforms and strengthen governmental bodies, for further cooperation with EU and support for EU-Georgia Agreements
Food safety has been a controversial issue in terms of co-operation with EU, as the country lacks any related regulations.
Georgia has inherited so called GOST food safety system. As Transparency International states, GOST provides some kind of protection for consumers, however it is based on end product testing, hence it is less effective in terms food safety.
To increase the level of safety, it is important to focus on the production process and the prevention of threats before they are realized.
Two law amendments were made in 2006 and 2007. However, regulations still do not operate, due to a number of reasons, including financial difficulties and institutional incapacity. The costs of international food safety regulations are prohibitively high for Georgia.
The country is definitely in need of strict regulations on food safety. Also, the population may suffer from the lack of information on contaminated food. In 2008, the Irish pork scandal created a huge recall in Europe. However, Georgian consumers were kept in an informational vacuum, the local media never covered a story and other responsible institutions did not react either.
The safety of locally produced products can be vital for Georgia. The country cannot be completely dependent on imported food. However, Georgia has already taken some active steps in implementing new regulations. As it is said in the joint staff working document issued by the European Commission back in May this year: "SPS (sanitary and phyto-sanitary) legislation including a framework law (Food Safety Code) is in preparation. Georgia adopted the Food Safety Agency’s statute and trained, with EU support, its Agency staff. A twinning project on SPS capacity building at borders was launched. SPS border controls are now being done".
If the country wants to promote its future integration with the EU, the food safety issue needs to be solved, as this is one of the "key recommendations" the EU Commission has provided.
The Annual Action Programme 2012 provides Euro 60 million of bilateral allocation to Georgia. This assistance comes through the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument (ENPI).