In many countries, fishing is traditionally considered an activity for men, but one woman in Myanmar successfully broke into this industry some 30 years ago: in 1977, after obtaining her master’s degree, Toe Nandar Tin decided to become a fisherwoman and founded her own company, “Anawa Devi Fishing Cooperative”, becoming the very first woman on board a fishing vessel in her country. However, growing her business was not easy, as her cooperative had to comply with changing market requirements when it came to food safety.
As a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar has a greater potential to export to regional and international markets; however, food safety and hygiene practices in many food-processing companies need to be enhanced to comply with regional and international requirements.
To help businesses such as Dr. Toe’s to overcome export obstacles, Myanmar needs to build an enabling and sustainable national quality infrastructure which can provide necessary quality and food safety assurance services to its food industries. To this end, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Myanmar Food Processors and Exporters Association (MFPEA), is implementing a project to strengthen and modernize Myanmar’s national quality infrastructure, as well as to improve food safety-related services for local small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The EUR 2.6 million project was funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
At enterprise level, UNIDO developed a Sustainable Supplier Development Programme (SSDP), which supports the development of training and advisory services for food safety experts, as well as the upgrading of more than 20 food-processing companies’ operation. In particular, the SSDP helps companies adopt food safety practices based on relevant international standards, including the Global Markets Programme of the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).
The Global Markets Programme sets out how companies that lack or have underdeveloped food safety management systems can tackle challenges through a voluntary capacity-building scheme. As a result, companies are able to reduce hazards in food products and work towards market access through certification by way of one of the GFSI-recognized schemes.
“One of the important aspects that the Sustainable Supplier Development Programme taught us was the system approach to food safety. Under UNIDO local experts’ guidance, my team was able to understand the importance of the system as opposed to a series of routine controls,” said Dr. Toe.
“After the training, we were able to set up a monitoring system for mass and basic quality control. In addition, we have been training supervisors to monitor temperatures and sanitation operations, and to track the product batches from raw reception to final products…All of these have enabled food producers like me to improve quality, quantity and efficiency, and to deliver safe products to consumers, while expanding our businesses to both national and international markets,” added Dr. Toe.
The SSDP also helps foster a sustainable training force in food safety in the country. One of the experts trained under the programme, Thandar Linn, who trained workers in the Anawa Devi Fishing Cooperative, said: “Working with UNIDO as a food safety specialist, I have gained valuable experience in areas such as the GFSI framework for effective preparation of food safety certifications, including FSSC 22000 and HACCP. The programme has also enhanced my capability to deal with all level of clients - not only through qualification training on food safety, but also through coaching by senior food safety consultants.”
In addition to providing assistance at an enterprise-level, the project focuses on supporting the country in strengthening its enabling environment through the enhancement of conformity assessment services, such as accreditation, standardization, metrology and calibration. It helps upgrade the capacities of key laboratories, including the MFPEA’s Food Industries Development Supporting Laboratory, and refurbishes laboratories with new equipment to offer better testing services. It also organizes training sessions to laboratory staff on international accreditation requirements, such as ISO 17025.
U Sein Thaung Oo, Vice Chairperson of MFPEA, said: “MFPEA acknowledges that UNIDO’s support in food safety management systems is beneficial and needs to continue as local SMEs still lack knowledge and experiences for further proceeding.”
“With strengthened and modern national quality infrastructure which creates an enabling environment to ensure food safety, Myanmar’s processed food products will have better chances to access markets across Southeast Asia and beyond,” said Ali Badarneh, who manages this project at UNIDO.
UNIDO’s food safety approach used in Myanmar was featured at this year’s GFSI Global Conference which took place from 27 February to 2 March 2017 in Houston, USA.
By ZHONG Xingfei
For more information, please contact:
UNIDO Industrial Development Officer