Producing more, safer and better-quality food

By Viktorija Melohina

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Leading agricultural producers and experts will gather for the Annual Meeting of the EastAgri network to discuss how to raise both the quality and quantity of food products in Europe and Central Asia. Responding to growing consumer demand for quality products is increasingly important for producers to remain competitive.

The EastAgri Annual Meeting will bring together more than 150 senior representatives from private sector companies, governments, international financial institutions and development agencies to discuss how to support the production of “best food” in Europe and Central Asia.

The meeting will take place on 18 and 19 June in Belgrade. Organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) – and financially supported by the World Bank – the two-day meeting will begin with a high-level plenary session on upgrading quality in the region’s food chains.

On the second day of the meeting, leading agricultural experts will engage in in-depth discussions on improving food quality for export markets. They will also examine ways of financing the modernisation of small and medium-sized enterprises in the agribusiness sector, “green growth” in agri-food chains, and policies and partnerships for investment. View the full programme.

As consumer expectations evolve with regard to food quality, and international standards rise, food producers need to meet domestic demand as well as the standards of export markets. While historically food quantity and efficiency of production were the main drivers for investment, consumers are now requesting safer, more nutritious, but still-affordable food, produced in a more sustainable way.

In global food markets, food safety and quality standards are viewed from a more international perspective. This is evident to agribusiness companies in eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus that aim to place locally-produced food on higher value markets such as the EU. Investing in upgrading the food value chain can be a major avenue of growth for many SMEs in the agribusiness sector and a major gain for consumers in the region.

Recognising investment needs for producing more, safer and better-quality food, the EastAgri network focuses on coordinating interventions within the agribusiness sector. In addition, it fosters synergies between the public and private sectors. In this context, the Annual Meeting will define concrete goals and future steps to upgrade agri-food systems in the region.

“It is important to work in close partnership with different public institutions and the private sector for the regional development of agriculture and the rural economy. This will increase efficiency and support sustainable economic development,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia.

“The Ministry acknowledges the need to reinforce the partnership between producers, processors and the Ministry. This will have a positive influence on the improvement of the food chain and the creation of a strong and competitive agricultural sector”, said Snežana Bogosavljević Bošković, the Minister for Agriculture and Environmental Protection of the Republic of Serbia.

While EastAgri will maintain its regional focus on Europe and Central Asia, specific emphasis will be given to the Western Balkans. The recent floods had a significant impact on the agribusiness sector in these countries and the international community has pledged swift help to overcome the damage and mitigate future risks.

Expanding the EastAgri membership, enhancing cooperation around future focus areas and targeting “best food” in investment commitments are just a few of the anticipated outcomes of the meeting. In addition, the EBRD-FAO Framework Agreement will be extended to continue the solid partnership between the two institutions.

“You can only produce the best food if you work with the best private sector companies, promote best practices and policies, and build the strongest partnerships,” said Gilles Mettetal, Director of Agribusiness at the EBRD.

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