Food safety

Food Safety Remains A Challenge for Agricultural Export

More attention needs to be paid to food safety for Cambodia’s SMEs to reap the rewards of international exports.
A vendor sells vegetables in Phnom Penh on on February 2021. Picture: Stringer
A vendor sells vegetables in Phnom Penh on on February 2021. Picture: Stringer

Cambodia’s agricultural exports increased by 87 percent to more than $4.4 billion during the first 11 months of 2021, said the Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries.

However, food safety remains an issue, experts said. Food safety auditor at the Control Union, Young Ratana, said agricultural food companies hoping to export food products to the market face a challenging task of identifying food safety measures and reaching the standards.

In order to achieve long-term sustainability, export is the main solution, according to Young Ratana. Companies need to have reliable and accurate information regarding food safety and export requirements.

Food safety refers to the handling, preparation, and storage of food to reduce the risk of contamination and individuals becoming sick by consuming those food products.

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According to the World Health Organization, worldwide an estimated 600 million people – almost 1 in 10 – fall ill after eating contaminated food each year. As a result, food safety authorities worldwide have established strict guidelines regarding the importation of food.

It is vital that SMEs in Cambodia and worldwide follow these strict guidelines to meet the requirements of the regulators. This means SMEs should obtain internationally-recognized quality standards and certifications regarding food safety. These include GMP, HACCP, and ISO 22000.

In August, China banned the import of longan from Thailand. This had a huge impact on Cambodia. Ten of thousands of tonnes of longan were unable to be exported.

However, the process to obtain certification is complex.

To help reduce the challenge, ARISE Plus Cambodia and EuroCham organized the fourth SME Export Talk focusing on “Food Safety Export”.

Young Ratana said: “Currently some SMEs have already tried to get compliance to the standard. More and more, some are not yet ready in the preparation stages because sometimes they start from zero and need the building renovation as well. It is time-consuming but also buyers are now looking for the standards. That way they can access the supermarket easier, as well as support from the local people.”

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Oanh Dinh, a food safety auditor at the Bureau Veritas AQ Vietnam, said awareness of food safety is crucial.

“It helps the products to get to the market easily with trust,” she said.

Oknha Mong Reththy, who exports mangos, bananas, and other agricultural products internationally, said food safety is key to entering the international market. Making products safe from pesticides and other harmful chemicals is essential.

Adhering to food safety standards not only protects the health of the consumers but increases their interest in buying the products, meaning more profits for producers.

Meas Holy, sales manager at Kirirom Food Production, is a champion of the food safety movement in Cambodia. She said: “At our company, we focus on our products being standardized to meet customers’ expectations. That is how we have stable and sustainable business operations and are able to have our products recognized by the market, both local and for export.”

She added ensuring food safety also protects the company from financial loss.