Wed, 03 Mar 2010

From: The Jakarta Post

By Mustaqim Adamrah, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The government is currently building an early warning system on food safety to ensure that all food products entering the country meet both national and international standards. Chairwoman of the food and drug monitoring agency (BPOM) Kustantinah said in Jakarta on Tuesday that the system would be connected online throughout the archipelago and later to the same systems in ASEAN countries and eventually to the European countries as well.

“This system will disseminate a warning to other countries when a food product imported from a country has failed to meet the national and international standards applied in Indonesia,” she said on the sidelines of a seminar on food safety sponsored by the EU.

“The warning will be delivered from government to government because they are the ones that have the authority to take action,” she said.

Kustantinah said the new system would be different from the existing one, which had not been integrated in the global food safety system. She said that the new system which was currently being installed at the BPOM office in Jakarta, would gradually cover all the agency’s offices in the provinces and regencies.

“We also need to work with other government agencies and ministries, including the Agriculture Ministry, the Trade Ministry, the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Industry and the Industry Ministry to develop the system,” Kustantinah said.

“Eventually, our system will be connected online to that in other ASEAN countries then the EU.” She said Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam had implemented similar warning systems on food safety. She said it would take four years from now to develop the new system into full swing. She, however, did not mention how long it would take to integrate the system into the global networks. The warning system is currently being built with 15 million of technical assistance funds from the EU, according to Kustantinah.

In a press statement released by the EU, the 15 million is allocated to assist Indonesia to improve Indonesian export quality infrastructure and to ensure the compliance of Indonesian exports to the EU and other international standards. That 15 million commitment, which was signed in December last year, was part of a package of European Commission assistance worth a total of 30 million, according to Walter van Hattum, first secretary of the economic and trade section of the Delegation of the European Commission to Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.

“We have two big programs, 15 million each. One is focusing on laboratory capacity so you can test [food quality] in Indonesia ,” he said. “That [system] also helps your exports because you can guarantee from Indonesia that your quality of food is at a good level. Then in Europe, we will say ok ... So we accept it without to many bureaucratic measures - the safety measures.” He said the next 15 million commitment, called the “economic cooperation facility”, was still “under development”. “What is important for Indonesia is that the EU market is around 75 billion per year,” Van Hattum said. “Of course that is for the whole world. But if Indonesia increases its quality and the predictability of its quality, then the access to the EU market will increase.”

He said Indonesian food products accounted for around 8 percent of Indonesia’s total exports to the EU last year worth 13 billion.