The East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) Project is a multi-country development project of the Government of Switzerland. Through the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Project mandates Mekong Institute to implement activities to boost cross border trade and knowledge in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam along the East-West corridor. 

Initiatives of EWEC recently paid off as Vanida Rice Mill in Khammouane province, Lao PDR, one of the project’s rice mill partners, had been officially awarded the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) Certificate on May 5, 2017. The certificate had been issued by TÜV – a Technical Inspection Association from Germany. 

A first in Lao PDR, this milestone is attributed to the project’s capacity building program on GMP Standards. 

The EWEC Project provided a series of modular training sessions from February to December 2016 for six rice mill operators in Khammouane province. They followed ten training sessions where classroom learning and field practiceswere integrated. A GMP expert from the Department of Small and Medium Enterprise Promotion (DOSMEP), Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MoIC) extended invaluable expertise and knowledge to rice mill operators during the implementation process. In addition, the program provided an integratedcapacity building activity to thegovernment sector – two staff members from DOSMEP, MoIC and five staff members from the Department of Industry and Commerce/District Industry and Commerce Office (DIC/DICO) took part in the program to establish their GMP capacities. 

Part of the training included two structured learning visits (SLVs), which promoted knowledge and capacity acquisition through learning by doing. The rice mill operators witnessed first-hand the best practices of a small coffee factory and a fermented fish factory in Vientiane, Lao PDR. The second SLV was conducted by visiting a rice mill at the Khammalath Cooperative in Thailand. 

Following these activities, the rice mill operators have upgraded their rice producing facilities, warehouses, as well as the overall environment of their production sites – all of which have produced notable improvement on the rice quality in the province. 

In addition, seven government officials from DOSMEP and DIC/DICO are now considered as local resource persons for the development of GMP in the country. The project is also working with DOSMEP to finalize a GMP Manual to extensively advance the practices to other rice mills. 

With continuous collaborative efforts between the stakeholders, the future of rice mill operation promises improved rice production standards in Lao PDR and also in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

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