Mekong Institute (MI) and the SMEs Development Support Center 2 (Directorate for Standards, Metrology and Quality, Ministry of Science and Technology) convened 30 government officials and small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) representatives to consolidate best practices that will strengthen resiliency of the agri-food sector at the Food Safety Forum on “Challenges and Coping Strategies for the Agri-Food Sector in the Time of COVID-19” in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam on October 28, 2020.
“This forum is an opportunity for us to share information and expertise so we can help advance a unified approach in supporting the economic recovery of SMEs in Vietnam,” Ms. Maria Theresa S. Medialdia, MI’s Director of Agricultural Development and Commercialization, said in her opening statement.
In Vietnam, SMEs are economic drivers as they cover over 50 percent of the country’s employment and contribute 40 percent to the gross national product.
Underscoring the importance of sustained collaboration and innovation among SMEs, Ms. Medialdia called for the reinforcement of e-commerce strategies and other digital activities to maintain active and accessible food supply and value chains, while social distancing guidelines are enforced.
In addition, Ms. Ratna Devi Nadarajan, MI’s Food Safety Specialist, highlighted the potentials of starting innovative businesses amidst the pandemic such as the provision of food delivery services. She, however, enjoined participants to consider developing more stringent guidelines to prevent possible food contamination.
Furthermore, government officials and SMEs presented recommendations to protect the agri-food sector, which is a key economic force in Vietnam.
Mr. Dinh Viet Tu, Deputy Head, Sub-Department of Region 1, Department of Agricultural Product Processing and Market Development (AgroTrade), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development remarked that while the country has successfully curbed the spread of COVID-19, cohesive and innovative measures will need to be in place to ease import and export restrictions to boost agricultural trade, lower product costs, and meet consumer demands.
In addition, Mr. Nguyen Phong Phu, Technical Director of Vina T&T Group, suggested to speed up the review of food safety documents at ports of entry so agri-food products can be released in a shorter span of time. Acknowledging the importance of the forum in leveling off understanding of public-private recovery efforts, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thu Phuong, Chief Executive Officer of SMEDEC2 also raised the need to roll out trainings and information campaigns for SMEs to better understand the value and requirements of global food safety standards, which will help increase their competitiveness.
This is the second forum hosted by MI under the PROSAFE project in 2020. The dialogue-for-action platform aims to raise awareness of food safety issues and challenges of the agri-food SMEs, as well as to strengthen the food safety stakeholder network in the country.