All three South Caucasus countries have substantial potential for exporting food and beverages, which is not even approximately fully utilised. One reason for this is that alignment of food production and government food inspection with internationally recognised standards is still in its infancy in the three countries. Thus, improving food safety is a common field for action in all three European Neighbourhood Policy action plans, with the aim of giving new stimulus to trade in agricultural products by removing nontariff barriers. GIZ was assisting this process within the framework of its Private Sector Development in South Caucasus Programme, which had two components, (1) further support to the reform of economic and financial policy and (2) elimination of technical barriers to trade and trade promotion. The food safety module operated under the latter component.
The methodological approach consisted, in essence, in the provision of advice and training to help reduce selected non-tariff barriers mentioned in the ENP Action Plans (essentially the improvement of food safety and competition policy). In addition, relevant state and private institutions were motivated to encourage greater cooperation on economic issues and improve support services for export-/import-oriented small and medium size companies.
Risk analysis (comprising risk assessment, management and communication) as one of the major general principles of European food safety policy was promoted. The creation of the respective institutional framework within which risk analysis takes place was supported in Georgia and Armenia. In addition, selected value chains (freshwater fish in Armenia, hazelnuts and pomegranate juice in Azerbaijan, and citrus fruits, apples and vegetables in Georgia) were analysed with focus on food safety hazards. Government officials and private producers received advice on measures required to address identified hazards or to remove existing barriers to trade. Producers received training and advice on international public and private food safety standards, test audits were carried out and actions/investments required identified to eventually fulfil these requirements.