INDONESIA, 24 October 2019 – Businesses and officials representing micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), food-regulatory agencies and standards development bodies from ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand convened in Jakarta on 22-24 October to discuss how to enhance the role of MSME in prepared food trade in the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) region.

The workshop aimed to increase regional and in-country practical knowledge and skills in the prepared food sector for MSMEs, MSME enablers and relevant government officials – which in turn can contribute to greater participation of MSMEs in regional value chains and gaining international market access.

In her remarks, Ms Destry Anna Sari, Director of Marketing, Ministry of Cooperatives and SMEs of Indonesia, and Chair of the ASEAN Coordinating Committee on MSME (ACCMSME), stressed the importance of capacitating the MSMEs in taking advantage of opportunities presented through the AANZFTA and eventually towards contributing to achieving ASEAN integration.

At the workshop, MSME enablers and industry regulators exchanged views and information about the food control management systems and regulatory frameworks currently in place in each AANZFTA party as well as about the importance of food safety and adherence to standards and regulations across the value chain.

The workshop deliberated on the findings of a needs assessment study that unveils the challenges faced by MSMEs in 12 AANZFTA parties and their capacity-building needs related to international market access in terms of compliance to food safety, food standards and technical requirements. Participants further discussed the design of the proposed capacity development program for MSMEs and MSME enablers, related training materials and national implementation work plans.

Ms. Aderina Uli Panggabean, Deputy Director of International Compliance for Standards and Conformity Assessments, National Standardization Agency of Indonesia, said “acknowledging that MSMEs playing an important role in economic growth in most AMS, it would be important for MSMEs to improve their capacities and competencies to allow them to participate in the global market, including capacities to hurdle challenges related to standards and conformity assessment. The collaboration between relevant agencies involved in this activity provides opportunity to enhance the capacity of AMS to support MSMEs in improving awareness on food safety and understanding law and regulations related to food safety for international trade.”

The workshop participants also took the opportunity to learn, through case studies, about capacity building programmes and internationalisation support provided by national agencies in the ASEAN Member States; as well as the successful internationalization of MSMEs that have exported to regional and international markets. An overview of the efforts and challenges in harmonising food safety standards in the region was also highlighted.

The workshop was organised by the ASEAN Secretariat, in collaboration with ACCMSME and AANZFTA Sub-Committee on Standards, Technical Regulation and Conformity Assessment Procedures as part of ‘Capacity Building Programme for MSMEs on International Prepared Food Standards’ Project supported by the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Programme.