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AKIPRESS.COM - Unleashing the food production potential of Europe and Central Asia, while meeting demand for higher-quality products, is the topic of the EastAgri 2014 Annual Meeting, which took place in Belgrade.
The meeting under the title “Best food: How to produce both quality and quantity in Europe and Central Asia” brought together over 120 senior representatives from private sector companies, government officials, international financial institutions (IFIs), development agencies, and donor governments to discuss how to stimulate investment in the agribusiness sector to help meet this dual objective.
Organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) – with financial support of the World Bank – the two-day meeting began with a high-level plenary of leading agribusiness CEOs, academics and IFIs that discussed “Upgrading quality in the region’s food chains: meeting new domestic consumer demands and export countries’ standards”.
The second day today had four in-depth round table sessions that focused on improving food quality for export markets, financing the modernization of agribusiness small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), greening agri-food chains and strengthening policies and partnerships for investment.
Increased opportunities to deliver quality food allow companies to tap into high-value markets and export traditional products that meet the highest standards. Origin-based labels, such as geographical indications (GIs), are one option to help facilitate this. One session of the meeting discussed developing such private labels as a first step towards introducing product certification.
Greening food chains from primary production to the retail stage can also help differentiate regional products on international markets. With a session on productivity gains, higher resource efficiency and green products, experts identified ways for agribusinesses to limit their impact on the environment and at the same time lower their operational costs.
Delivering “best food” in Europe and Central Asia requires private sector investment as well as regulatory frameworks and policies.
“You can only produce the best food if you partner with the best private sector companies, promote best practices and policies and build strong partnerships with the best counterparts,” said Gilles Mettetal, Director of Agribusiness at the EBRD. “The EastAgri network is all about coordinating and aligning interventions within the agribusiness sector.”
The agribusiness sector plays a key role in the economies of Europe and Central Asia, with SMEs as the main drivers for growth. In light of their proximity to high-value regional markets such as the EU, a session explored ways to finance the modernization of SMEs through public funds and private credit to meet higher food quality and safety standards.
The EBRD-FAO Framework Agreement was signed in order to continue the solid partnership in the agribusiness sector between the two institutions.
“It is important to us that we are working in close partnership with different public institutions and the private sector in the agriculture and rural sector development in the region to increase efficiency and to support the sustainable economic development of the countries in the region,” said Vladimir Rakhmanin, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Europe and Central Asia.
“The EastAgri network is an important platform for the continuation and enhancement of the dialogue among the partners and it will ensure that we are held accountable to meet our goals,” he added.