By Chimi Wangmo
Around forty participants from various ministries and focal agencies attended a three-day advocacy workshop on a theme “Achieving leadership in the codex process” at Punakha this week.
The participants include representatives from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Khesar Gyalpo University of Medical Sciences of Bhutan, and World Health Organization and World Food Programme officials.
A statement from MoAF stated that the workshop is aimed at strengthening the national Codex programme in Bhutan, addressing the gaps identified using the Codex Diagnostic Tool, increasing the understanding on the importance of Codex standards for consumer protection and fair practices in food trade, and enhancing engagement in international standard setting process among the relevant agencies.
“It is being facilitated by experts from India, WHO South East Asia Regional Office, New Delhi and FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Bangkok,” MoAF sources said.
The opening session was graced by Dr. Tashi Samdup, the Director General for Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA); Dr. Gyanendra Gongal, Regional Advisor for Food Safety, WHO SEARO and Dr. Shridhar Dharmapuri, Senior Food Safety and Nutrition Officer, FAO RAP.
In his inaugural address, the Director General highlighted the important role of the relevant agencies in contributing to the work of Codex at national and international levels to protect plant, animal and human health.
Dr. Gongal commended Bhutan for taking proactive initiatives towards improving the food safety situation of Bhutan and reiterated on the importance of benefiting from Codex Trust Fund to better participate and contribute towards Codex works.
Dr. Shridhar Dharmapuri emphasized on using the Codex texts to further strengthen the national food control system to achieve food safety and ensure fair practices in trade.
The workshop was part of Codex Trust Fund (CTF) tripartite project for Bhutan, India and Nepal, with the goal to strengthen the function of National Codex Structures through effective engagement of all stakeholders in Codex activities and standard setting process.
Meanwhile, to prepare Bhutan for the UN Global Food Systems Summit, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests is convened the National Dialogue on Bhutan’s Food Systems at Thimphu.
The national dialogue brought together around 30 participants from the government, private sector, CSOs, youth, women and development partners to identify unique pathways to transform the nation’s food systems and the RNR sector through multi-stakeholder consultations.
Addressing the opening session, the agriculture minister, Yeshey Penjor, expressed the commitment of the Ministry to revamp our agri-food sector and transform our food systems.
He said, “The agriculture and food sector continues to employ the majority of Bhutanese people. Therefore, it is only fitting that we invest in, build capacity, strengthen support systems, and do all we can to reinvigorate the agri-food sector.”
Lyonpo also talked about the opportunities available to our youth and farming sector and the urgent need for the private sector to play an increasing role.
MoAF’s Chief Planning Officer, Karma Tshering, said the current COVID19 pandemic has opened our eyes, brought in sense of duty, solidarity and nationalism. We must transform the food and food system to achieve our vision and mission of food sufficiency and food security including alleviating poverty in our country.
Last month the Ministry also conducted the sub-national dialogues on Food and Food Systems with a theme “Strengthening Bhutanese food systems for Gross National Happiness” at Wangdue, Mongar and Paro.
The recommendations and findings from the regional and national dialogues containing Bhutan’s unique pathways to transform our food systems was presented during the UN Summit held on 23 September this week.
The UN Summit is aimed to transform the way the world produces, consumes and thinks about foods within the context of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development and to meet the challenges of poverty, food security, malnutrition, population growth, climate change, and natural resource degradation.