VIENTIANE, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- A new project to improve food safety and plant health through better governance was announced here on Wednesday by the European Union, the Lao Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
The Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project, aimed at improving food safety through better governance in Laos, will focus on developing a model of export value chains for selected products and provinces. The target markets will be implemented by ITC in partnership with MAF's Department of Agriculture and its provincial offices, a press release from the UN Resident Coordinator's Office reads.
The goal for the project is to provide skills and knowledge needed for participating companies to improve their market-access opportunities. It will also help facilitate business linkages between farmers and exporters, and attract international buyers.
The project is to strengthen the regulatory framework for control of plant health and pesticides in the fruit and vegetable sector and other products like rice by applying norms and standards and improving regional and EU market access.
The Lao side of the project will support the development of a systematic approach to assist the government and private sector stakeholders to identify, prioritize and address the regulatory problems on plant health, pesticides and agro products that have significant potential for export to EU, ASEAN and China markets.
Announcing the launch of the SYMST project, MAF's Vice Minister Bounkhouang Khambounhueng said this project will improve food safety and strengthen the regulatory frame work in fruits and vegetables.
Leo Faber, the EU Ambassador to Laos, said the SYMST project will complement its Trade-Related Assistance program in Laos, ARISE Plus, as the EU do consider that a solid regularly framework is deemed as a prerequisite for the integration of the Lao economy into global production chains.
"ITC has been expanding its collaboration in Laos and SYMST project is uniquely positioned to foster a pilot model for safe trade in one of the major employment sectors in the country," said Jiang Xuejun, chief of ITC's Office for Asia and the Pacific.
Following the launch, a series of activities will be carried out. Technical support will be provided to watermelon farmers in Luang Namtha in northern Laos, rice producers in Vientiane of central Laos, and chilli and basil producers from Pakxe (Champak region) in the south, according to the press release.
During the course of the project, which will run over the next two years, a particular focus will be placed on strengthening the regulatory framework for plant health control and the reduction of pesticide use in the target sectors. Support will also be provided to improve the technical capabilities of regulatory and control institutions across Laos.