The LSU AgCenter has partnered with the Armenian Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD) and the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center (SUAREC) to provide technical assistance and capacity building in a number of areas in food safety and regulatory compliance in that former Soviet republic with USDA funding. Key among past assistance activities were the drafting of a National Food Safety Concept and a National Food Safety Strategy document for the Ministry of Agriculture; development of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines and documentation; a series of round table discussions with appropriate governmental bodies; a food safety policy tour in the US; and numerous food safety and regulatory training programs and capacity development, both in Armenia and the US.
Marketing of commodity or value-added food products requires compliance with WTO, Codex Alimentarius, and other accepted international regulations, guidelines and standards. Further, outbreaks of diseases attributed to food products have created a heightened awareness on the part of consumers everywhere, thus leading to a demand for safeguards and transparency. Development of a safe food supply for local consumption or export relies on uniform food policies that are consistently enforced by government agencies. In order to address these issues, the Government of Armenia has recently initiated the development and implementation of a uniform food safety policy. The first step was the establishment of the State Service for Food Safety (SSFS). There is still a long way to go.
Given the positive trend in Armenia, the current emphasis for the Project activities is on sustainability, especially establishing capacity at the Armenian Government and private/non-government levels to provide future technical support and training for the government and food industry in Armenia. The program has entered into discussions with the Armenian Government and higher education institutions to develop curriculum in the various areas of food safety; and a plan of work for capacity building at these institutions for implementation for the rest of the project’s duration. Key activities conducted recently include:
·Training and field visits for Armenian slaughterhouse facilities;
·The establishment of an Armenian Food Safety Training Coalition;
·An Instructor Development Workshop (IDW) to be conducted for potential trainers selected by the coalition; and
Activities selected in the current work plan to realize these goals include:
·A workshop designed to foster leadership within the Armenian food safety sector, particularly within the context of the US’s recently passed Food Safety Management Act;
·A food safety course development mentoring workshop;
·Production and post-harvest care of horticultural crops;
·Small scale livestock handling; and
·Economics of food safety .