Press Release

EU and ITC team up with Lao PDR to improve food safety and boost exports

29 January 2020

  • A new project to improve food safety and plant health through better governance in Lao People’s Democratic Republic was today announced in Vientiane by the European Union, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the International Trade Centre (ITC). The Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project will place focus on developing a model of export value chains for selected products and provinces and target markets will be implemented by ITC in partnership with MAF’s Department of Agriculture and its provincial offices.
Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project
Caption: Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) project launch event.
Photo: © UN in Lao PDR

The goal is for the project 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 help increase interest from international buyers.

Announcing the launch of the SYMST project H.E Bounkhouang Khambounhueng, Vice Minister, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), said: This Project will improve food safety and strengthen the regulatory frame work for control plant health and pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables.

Leo Faber, Ambassador of the European Union to Lao PDR, said: SYMST project will complement our Trade-Related Assistance program in Laos, ARISE Plus, as we do consider that a solid regularly framework for control plan health and pesticides in the fruits and vegetable sectors is deemed as a prerequisite for the integration of the Lao economy into global production chains and increased access to foreign markets.

Xuejun Jiang, Chief of ITC’s Office for Asia and the Pacific, said: ‘ITC has been expanding its collaboration in Lao PDR and SYMST project is uniquely positioned to foster a pilot model for safe trade in one of the major employment sectors in the country.’

Following the launch a series of activities will be carried out to help the country comply with international and regional standards related to pesticides control and plant health, that are highly regulated, especially in EU. Technical support will be provided to watermelon farmers in Luang Namtha for export to China, rice producers in Vientiane and chilli and basil producers from Pakxe (Champak region) for export to the EU.

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 reduction of pesticide use in the target sectors. Support will also be provided to improve the technical capabilities of regulatory and control institutions across Lao PDR.
The launch of the SYMST project was preceded by a gathering on 28 January of a range of stakeholder representatives from government bodies and different associations during which participants discussed the findings of the identification phase of the project, the proposed project activities and how to guide the project implementation at technical level through field demonstrations.

The SYMST will also contribute to establish a coordination and cooperation mechanism to enable actors along the supply chain to take actions on trade related issues on food safety and plant health. ITC has been active in Lao PDR for more than 15 years and is currently implementing three other projects in the country, all targeting the improvement of export capacities of Laotian small and medium-sized enterprises.

About SYMST Project

The Systematic Mechanism for Safer Trade (SYMST) Project aims to improve food safety through better governance in Lao PDR. The project aims to strengthen the regulatory framework for control of plant health and pesticides in the fruits and vegetable sector and other plant products (for example rice) through the application of norms and standards and improve regional and European Union market access.
The Lao PDR component of the project will support the development of a systematic approach to assist the government and private sector stakeholders to identify, prioritize and address problems related to compliance with regulatory measures on plant health and pesticides, for agro products that have significant potential for export to EU, ASEAN and China markets.
The project’s focal point and main coordinating body is the Department of Agriculture under the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF).

About ITC - The International Trade Centre is the joint agency of the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. ITC assists small and medium-sized enterprises in developing and transition economies to become more competitive in global markets, thereby contributing to sustainable economic development within the frameworks of the Aid-for-Trade agenda and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

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For more information, please contact:

Ludovica Ghizzoni, ITC Adviser Export Quality Management,

Thavonsouk Souphaphone, EUD LAO PRD,

Dr. Soulaphone Inthavong, Deputy Director General, DOA,

Ludovica Ghizzoni

ITC Adviser Export Quality Management

UN entities involved in this initiative

International Trade Centre

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