A project funded by the European Union is helping to improve food safety in Armenia.

The effort is being implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) and funded by the European Union under its EU4Business initiative.

The law in the Republic of Armenia on food safety sets the mandatory introduction and use of the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system for all food producers in the country.

Ensuring food safety is key to public health and a country’s economic growth, according to the project announcement. Adopting best international practice enables companies to produce safer food products, which allows for better representation on international markets.

The EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was signed in November 2017. EU imports from Armenia are mainly manufactured goods, raw materials and beverages while EU exports consist of machinery and transport equipment and chemicals.

Export potential
Since 2018, the ITC has provided consultations under the Eastern Partnership: Ready to Trade, EU4Business initiative, to 10 companies by helping them put food safety systems in place.

Four more firms will join the current beneficiaries by spring 2021. As part of this project, all 10 businesses will be provided with system enforcement plans, while the five with most export potential will be trained for certification. ITC also intends to cover costs of auditing services and maintenance of certification for certain companies for the next three years.

Rita Martirosyan, a project beneficiary and director of Ritea Company, said it separated the production of teas and dried fruits because of food safety requirements.

“The new factory has been constructed in line with international standards. Regardless of the market we are aiming for, having a food safety system in place is key to building the trust of the importing country,” Martirosyan said.

One way to show food has been produced in line with food safety standards is an ISO 22000:2018 certificate. This document, which specifies requirements for a food safety management system is key, as rules are different in well-established markets where wholesalers set the terms. ISO 22000 opens up better prospects for Armenian companies and gives them greater flexibility when targeting international markets and partners.

The document confirms the imported food is in compliance with best international practice, and that HACCP procedures have taken place. It proves that the product meets food safety regulations of the importing country. Different countries adhere to different approaches when setting limits on presence of heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics, and contamination with microorganisms. The HACCP system helps the producer control these in the final product.

Initial investment and continued focus
More than 200 companies in Armenia have introduced food safety management systems in compliance with the latest ISO 22000 standard. Fifty of them are continuing to develop such systems.

Artavazd Baghdasaryan, a consultant for the ITC and Integrated Management Solutions Company, said the involved companies are taking on a major responsibility by agreeing to be supervised regularly.

“In the early stages, introducing the international food safety system may increase the cost of the product. However, it makes the companies more flexible and competitive by ensuring sustainable growth and solid market positions.”

Lida Devejyan, deputy director of the Arcolad Company, said a piece of paper can’t be the only proof of a company following food safety standards.

“Rather, it should be at the core of the company’s policies and require daily strict adherence to sanitary and other norms established by the system,” the deputy director said.

A different project on strengthening food safety and animal health risk assessment and management was launched in the country in June 2019.

The two-year Food and Agriculture Organization work will provide assistance on identifying and improving the evidence and data sources on food safety, animal and plant health risks. It should help develop appropriate controls to avoid unsafe food and movement of animals.

Challenges exist in the country in terms of compliance with international regulations and standards, risk assessment capability and risk based approaches in food control systems. according to some officials.

The Food Safety Inspectorate in Armenia, which is the agency in charge of official controls and management of food safety, animal and plant health, is the implementing partner of the plans.

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