EU offers funds to improve Georgia’s food safety standards
Thursday, July 10Georgia’s poor food hygiene standards are set to undergo a major overhaul following a cash injection from the European Union (EU).The EU and the National Food Agency of Georgia (NFA) signed a grant agreement to implement new food safety measures on July 2, 2014.The ˆ4.5 million (10.8 million GEL) grant aimed to establish effective food safety standards, veterinary standards and ensure a sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) management system in Georgia comes into alignment with EU standards and legislation. Adopting new food safety measures are part of the EU-Georgia Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area agreement, signed on June 27.Under the DCFTA, the reform of Georgia’s food safety regulations will ensure Georgian food products meet international standards. By doing so, this will improve the safety of locally consumed goods as well as Georgian exports. This could have a flow-on effect and see local exports increase.
Reforms will touch at some general rules in the agricultural sectors, such as obligatory food inspections and improved hygiene standards along the entire food chain, including during production, storage and distribution. The NFA will carry out a number of activities with the funding, such as implementing new training modules for food safety inspectors, veterinarians, plant protection experts and other NFA staff. The grant will also help fund the introduction of modern information technologies, including an animal identification and registration system, disease surveillance systems and food safety risk analysis information technologies.
The grant will also support the network of the Laboratory of the Ministry of Agriculture to provide a more reliable analysis service. Furthermore, the Georgia Revenue Service Tax and Customs Administration, which is responsible for SPS border controls, will directly benefit from technical advances and trainings. European and Georgian food safety and SPS experts and lawyers will work together to facilitate the legal approximation of the Georgian food safety and SPS systems towards EU levels. It is expected all these actions will contribute to increased public awareness about the importance of food safety standards and SPS issues among consumers, farmers, retailers and the food processing sector. A NFA spokesperson said this project was not an isolated initiative but part of the wider support package by the EU to help Georgia modernize its food and agriculture sectors. The EU supported the previous phase of this action with ˆ2.7 million (6.5 million GEL) over the past 18 months until April 2014.
In the food safety sphere, the EU is also contributing to the modernization of the local agriculture sector and has contributed more than ˆ52 million (125 million GEL) currently allocated to various grants and support measures. (agenda.ge)