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FAO highlights huge potential to boost co-op with Azerbaijan’s Food Safety Agency in other spheres (Exclusive)

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Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug. 10

By Leman Zeynalova – Trend:

There is a great potential to extend the cooperation with Azerbaijan’s Food Safety Agency to other food safety, plant and animal health related issues, where the Agency has a mandate, Melek Cakmak, Head of FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Azerbaijan, said in an interview with Trend.

"I highly value the recent establishment of the Food Safety Agency. Such a public institution can contribute to the efficient functioning of the food safety control system in Azerbaijan. This will enhance safety of food products in the country by improving respective legislation and standards, and by the provision of risk-based quality inspection and certification services," she said.

Moreover, Cakmak pointed out that the existence of the Agency will positively affect interactions with food safety authorities in other countries, when needed, and facilitate Azerbaijan’s participation in the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission.

She noted that besides food safety related operations, the Agency will provide veterinary and phytosanitary control in the country – both for imported and exported products, and other goods produced for local consumption.

Further, talking about cooperation with Azerbaijan, Cakmak said that FAO has a long, established relationship with the government of Azerbaijan, specifically with the Ministry of Agriculture.

"Many projects have been implemented since 1995 in different agricultural sectors. The establishment of the FAO Partnership and Liaison Office in Azerbaijan in 2016, and the approval of the Country Programming Framework Agreement (2016-2020) can be considered as signs of mutual trust and successful cooperation between the partners," she said.

Head of FAO Partnership and Liaison Office added that strengthening the specific agricultural sectors (such as veterinary and phytosanitary control, seed, organic agriculture, forestry, livestock, etc.), timely support to the Government of Azerbaijan to align its legislation with international standards, improving rural livelihoods, increasing agricultural productivity and ensuring food safety – these are a few from FAO’s several priorities in the country.

She went on to add that FAO contributes to the nationalization and effective implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically on the achievement of sustainable food and agricultural production through poverty reduction and gender equality in rural areas, ensuring food security, responsible consumption and production (no food waste), and sustainable management of natural resources.

"We provide support to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, the Statistics Committee, the Food Safety Agency, and the Ministry of Economy and the national SDG Council in monitoring, implementation and reporting on SDG targets," said Cakmak.

With regard to the Food Safety Agency, she noted that FAO provides crucial support to develop technical and infrastructural capacities as well institutional structuring for the better management of import and export controls and certification from the phytosanitary and quarantine diseases perspectives under the on-going project on strengthening the phytosanitary control services in Azerbaijan.

"And there is a great potential to extend the cooperation with the Food Safety Agency to other food safety, plant and animal health related issues, where the Agency has a mandate," she said.

Cakmak noted that soon FAO will launch a new Technical Cooperation Program project for the Improvement of the Veterinary Laboratory Network and Food Safety Quality Management System in Azerbaijan.

"Food safety hazards should be better prevented with the new organizational set-up. Additional focus on practices at the beginning of the food chain, such as contaminants from animal feeds, pesticide residues, zoonotic diseases, veterinary drugs residues, antimicrobial resistance and so on will also be very beneficial. Furthermore, FAO is about to start another project designed specifically to cover the urgent needs of the newly-established Agency in this critical period," she added.

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