Steps to ensure safe trade & food safety amid COVID-19 stressed

Experts at a workshop stressed the need for taking practical measures to ensure trade and food safety amid COVID-19 so that the pandemic might not impact the lives of common man. 

The online workshop titled: ‘Safe Trade & Food Safety amid COVID-19’ was organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) in collaboration with Pakistan Institute of Trade & Development (PITAD) here. 

Experts mainly discussed as to how the improved federal-provincial coordination on food safety can increase the likelihood of Pakistan’s food exports being preferred abroad. They were of the view that coordination is required between product standard authorities and Ministry of National Food Security & Research to avert delays due to approvals and permits that harm the timeliness of Pakistan’s trade consignments. 

They called upon the government to conduct a regulatory impact assessment to see how such costs which hurt the competitiveness of exporters can be reduced. In this regard, they said, the authorities concerned may also look towards the progressive practices adopted by peer economies in the Asia-Pacific region. 

Speaking on the occasion, PITAD Director-General Raheela Tajwar said after the first wave of COVID-19, appropriate biosecurity arrangements in trade has become imperative and good hygiene practice now needs to be evolved by all involved in the logistics. 

Dr Ali Abbas Qazilbash, an expert in trade sector, said that the COVID-19 has seen an increase in non-tariff barriers, and it is impacting the global supply chain in agriculture as well. He said the world needs to achive food safety compliance. 

Freight forwarders and transporters need to implement the controls and human contact needs to be minimized by ensuring electronic certification, he said, adding that many organizations are now dealing with Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, whereas a single authority as a focal point  should be made available on SPS agreement.

Dr Vaqar Ahmed, SDPI Joint Executive Director, said that after the first wave of pandemic, many countries are paying due attention on hygienic and safe transportation, port handling, storage, and warehousing of cargo. In this connection, he maintained, new consignment handling procedures are being discussed in different countries, and the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization are also considering these procedures. 

“The safety of people involved in the supply chain and logistics has received attention in the recently emerging literature,” Dr Vaqar Ahmad said. Highlighting the importance of   capacity building of institutions concerned to understand the food safety amid pandemic, he  added: “We also need to minimize possible rejection of exports from Pakistan or food loss and waste on account of weak compliance of safety standards.” 

Earlier, SDPI Researcher Ms Mahnoor Arshad said that a needs-assessment exercise should be conducted for the t trade governing bodies concerned to identify the real issues and meet future demands in the wake of any pandemic situation.

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