Mekong Institute (MI), in close collaboration with the New Zealand Aid Programme (NZAP), launches the Regional Training Program on Agri-food Inspection and Audit today at the Mekong Institute Residential Training Center. The course, which is only fourth of the series of training programs organized under the Food Safety Project (FSP), is being held from June 19-23, 2017.
With 28 participants attending, the week-long training program targets to enhance the capacity of government officials in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam (CLMV) in food safety inspection and audit, particularly inspection during processing and distribution stages, as well as during cross-border trade. It also aims to expose private sector actors, business entities, and food safety academics to efficient and effective food safety inspection and audit systems in Thailand and New Zealand.
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony, MI Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath began his Welcome Remarks by explaining the objective of the FSP, which is to provide capacity-building initiatives in CLMV for food safety improvement. He highlighted that food safety plays an important role in agricultural development and commercialization, which is one of MI’s pillars and one that is heavily demanded within the region.
Dr. Watcharas added that in affecting the regional food safety landscape, all stakeholders have to be equipped with the right knowledge and skills, which MI is both suited and mandated to provide. He further clarified that all participants for the training were very carefully selected, and are supposed to act as “change agents” in their respective countries. Therefore, he expects the participants to localize the knowledge and skills gained from this training to fit the needs of their respective countries and ultimately help address them.
Spearheaded by the Agricultural Development and Commercialization (ADC) Department of MI, the FSP is an 18-month initiative providing training and support services for CLMV government agricultural and food safety officials, as well as various private sector actors. It aims to develop their food safety knowledge and expertise, and assist them in preparing and implementing appropriate food safety regulations and standards for select value chains and market outlets both in-country and outside.
During the capacity development needs assessment (CDNA) conducted by the FSP project team in each of the four countries, a training course on agri-food inspection and audit—particularly at border checkpoints—emerged as one of the most pressing food safety needs across CLMV. This training course, hence, serves as one of the FSP’s answers to CLMV’s call towards a more systematic and well-designed inspection and audit scheme in the region.