A delegation from Mekong Institute (MI), led by Executive Director Dr. Watcharas Leelawath, recently visited New Zealand to meet with existing and potential partners for the New Zealand Aid Programme-funded Food Safety Project (FSP). 

The study visit from 22–27 January 2017 was organized to allow the MI-FSP team to better understand the current food safety situation and systems adopted in New Zealand and seek possible areas of collaboration with relevant organizations. Ms. Maria Theresa Medialdia, Director of MI’s Agricultural Development and Commercialization (ADC) Department, and Mr. Dwight Jason Ronan, ADC Program Coordinator, also joined the visit. 

With the assistance of Ms. Kay Shapland, Agriculture Development Manager-ASEAN and Southeast Asia of the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), the delegation met with more than 20 individuals composed of government representatives from MFAT and Ministry of Primary Industries as well as food safety experts and practitioners from Massey University, New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre, Assured Food Safety, AsureQuality Ltd, Plant and Food Research, and Horticulture New Zealand. The group also visited the FoodBowl facility of New Zealand Food Innovation Auckland Ltd and tomato greenhouses of NZ Hothouse. 

In the meetings, Ms. Shapland highlighted the strong relationship between MI and the NZ government since the organization’s inception two decades ago. Aside from discussions on potential partnerships for the current project, she shared that the meetings also served as a venue to discuss strategies on scaling up the FSP and building MI’s capacity as a regional center of excellence in food safety. During these discussions, Dr. Leelawath emphasized the transboundary nature of promoting safe food practices in the region. He explained that the NZ’s food safety experience and expertise would greatly contribute in addressing the region’s food safety priorities. 

Anchored on the vision of developing responsibility and promoting a food safety culture across relevant actors along the horticultural value chain, the MI-FSP targets to enhance the capacity of local governments and small- and medium-scale enterprises in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Viet Nam (CLMV). To achieve this, capacity building initiatives (i.e., training programs, workshops, policy consultations, etc.) will be delivered based on the region’s pressing food safety needs.

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