18th Annual Meeting of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Working Group on Agriculture (WGA)
The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Working Group on Agriculture (WGA) and their collaborators undertook pioneering work in the areas of food safety, quality assurance, and climate-friendly agriculture practices under the GMS Core Agriculture Support Program II. Substantial progress was achieved in terms of: (i) development of a strategy to improve food safety and quality assurance for climate-friendly agri-food products; (ii) policy dialogues on food safety and associated knowledge products; and (iii) public-private collaboration for enhanced training on food safety and quality control for upgrading the technical skills of GMS food scientists in addressing mycotoxin and regional/national stakeholder consultations, training and demonstrations on traceability barcoding systems. Despite all such progress, substantial policy and capacity gaps remain at the GMS level, and more strategic investments are needed.
To support the implementation of the Strategy for Promoting Safe and Environment-Friendly Agro-Based Value Chains in the GMS, ADB approved a Knowledge and Support Technical Assistance (TA) entitled Greater Mekong Subregion Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program (SAFSP) for 5 years (April 2020 – March 2025). The outcome of the TA is: ‘GMS investments in and capacity for climate-friendly, safe, and sustainable agri-food value chains increased’. The TA has three outputs: (i) Climate-friendly, inclusive, and gender-responsive agri-food value chains and agribusinesses strengthened; (ii) Harmonized crop and livestock safety and quality systems adopted; and (iii) Climate-adaptive agriculture in the context of the water-energy-food security nexus enhanced.
In support of realizing output 2, the 18th Annual Meeting of the GMS Working Group on Agriculture will feature the theme of: “Achieving Agri-food Safety and Quality Harmonization and Traceability in the Greater Mekong Subregion in the context of COVID-19 and Climate Change.”
Objectives of the meeting are as follows:
- To share national priorities of GMS countries for reinvigorating the agri-food sector in the context of COVID-19 and climate change;
- To assess how the ASEAN Multilateral Arrangement for the Mutual Recognition of Agri-food Standards and Conformity Assessment can be utilized to facilitate GMS agri-food trade in the GMS and beyond; and
- To agree upon priority actions to support harmonized FSQ standards and digitization to enhance agri-food trade in the GMS and beyond.
Target participants include GMS WGA representatives, technical department representatives from all GMS Ministries of Agriculture, and other related ministries (environment, science and technology, health, planning, and finance), private sector (agribusiness) representatives, development partner representatives, ADB, and the TA 9916 consultant team.
The meeting is expected to come up with an 18th GMS WGA Annual Meeting Statement.
Members of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Working Group on Agriculture (WGA) from the Kingdom of Cambodia, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), the Kingdom of Thailand, and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, met virtually on 7-8 July 2021 for the 18th Annual Meeting of the WGA (WGA AM-18). The meeting deliberated on the theme “Achieving Agri-food Safety and Quality Harmonization and Traceability in the GMS in the context of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) and Climate Change”. The Government of the Kingdom of Thailand and its Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives co-hosted and co-chaired the meeting.
The statement attached outlines the major outcomes of the virtual meeting. This includes the following:
- The WGA noted that the GMS has enormous potential to produce safe, nutritious, and environment-friendly agri-food products, and that advancing subregional cooperation on harmonization of safety and quality standards is critical.
- The WGA confirmed that GMS ASEAN member countries have high potential to be early adopters of the ASEAN Multilateral Arrangement for the Mutual Recognition of Agri-food Standards and Conformity Assessment (MAMRASCA) by tackling country-specific and regional challenges on policies, capacities and investments in food safety and quality.1
- The WGA agreed that the private sector should be proactively involved early on in achieving the objectives of MAMRASCA towards harmonization of agri-food standards on safety and quality, and a greater regional integration in the agri-food sector.
- The WGA confirmed five priorities on food safety and quality management to be pursued up to 2025, with specific activities and targets under each priority: (i) support to achieve policy coherence on food safety and quality through mutual recognition of standards in GMS countries; (ii) build institutional and technical capacities for mutual recognition of standards for safe and climate-friendly agri-food products; (iii) deploy digital technologies (e.g., blockchain) for enhanced traceability of safe and climate friendly agri-food products, and for accelerating harmonization of food safety and quality standards; (iv) contribute to COVID-19 recovery efforts by supporting measures to improve direct access of producers to higher value markets; and (v) engage with development partners and the private sector on harmonized food safety and quality management systems and digital transformation.
The ADB technical assistance "GMS Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security Program" supports the implementation of the Strategy for Promoting Safe and Environment-Friendly Agro-Based Value Chains in the GMS. The five priorities identified above supports the implementation of output 2 of the technical assistance to adopt harmonized crop and livestock safety and quality systems.
The Government of Viet Nam and its Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development agreed to host the 19th Annual Meeting of the WGA.