Shared Concerns: Food Safety Linking Myanmar Consumers and Farmers
On 04 - 05 September 2018, ICCO Cooperation and Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (CDI) collaborated with GIZ to organise a 2-day workshop on food safety standards and guidelines. The workshop was attended by the Myanmar partners of the Civil Engagement Alliance, in order to gain awareness, discuss key issues and develop insights regarding entry points for lobby and advocacy on food and agricultural governance.
Preventing formalin in fish, and other incidences
The topic of food safety is a rising concern for many people across the world. Interconnected markets across continents, longer value chains and heightened awareness of consumers about what they eat has led to increased attention from governments but also private sector actors about how food is produced, processed and stored.
In the context of Myanmar, the issue regarding food safety and health is particularly urgent. Key issues relate to inadequate adherence to good agricultural practices, health and safety guidelines and hygiene practices when handling food. Recent incidences reported in the national news in the past 2 years related to cases of bacteria found in fish, formalin in red bean cakes, and higher-than-accepted pesticide residues in crops. From producer, to processor, to retailer, to consumer, the relevance of improving food safety and hygiene is clear. From the perspective of domestic and international trade and export for agricultural produce, improving and aligning to food safety conventions and standard procedures is a key priority for the government of Myanmar (Government of the Union of Myanmar & FAO, 2016).
Getting into the technical (food)stuff
The workshop was embedded within a 5-day training for local partner Radanar Ayar, organized by ICCO Cooperation and Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation, sponsored by the Netherlands Nuffic fund. The objectives of the 2-day workshop were for CEA partners to:
- Gain basic knowledge on the relevant national, regional and EU/international GHP related food safety regulations, including sessions on: What is Food Safety? National Food Control Programme and Standards; National, Regional and EU food safety legislation; Myanmar GAP and EU hygiene practices;
- Have a good solid background on key food safety topics in relation to mungbean production, and ideas to help develop field application materials (e.g., black gram, sesame, ground nut, vegetables) relevant to food safety issues;
- Dive into the cases of the Myanmar fertilizer, seed and pesticide laws from a food safety perspective;
- Engage with private sector actors implementing standards at processing and warehouse locations.
On Wednesday afternoon, the full group of RDA trainees and CEA partners visited Pyei Phyo Aung (PPA) factory in Lanmadaw Township, Yangon. The group was welcomed by Mr Aung Myat Ko, Director, who showed two locations where black sesame and mungbean was sorted and packed for export. He presented the company profile and detailed how the company handles food safety standards and certifications. The company is HAPPC and ISO:9001 certified. After the presentation, participants interactively discussed the considerations made by the company in order to deliver to Japanese, Korean and Malaysian markets, but also how the company communicates with farmers and collectors to realize enough volume and quality supply.
Food safety and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) remain an important issue to work on in Myanmar to improve the function and benefits of food value chains and sectors. To tackle food safety issues, transparency and coordination in the food chain is crucial. This prevents a ‘blame-chain’ of neglected responsibilities, but more importantly, builds relationships between the VC actors (including farmers, collectors, traders, processors/exporters). Exchanges in the form of factory visits, meetings with exporters, and farmer demonstrations, are one way to promote this. The CEA partners will continue to work on lobby and advocacy for responsible (agri) business: from farm to fork.