YANGON, MYANMAR — IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), organized a national seminar on food safety in Yangon, Myanmar. The aim was to help food sector companies in Myanmar address and improve food safety practices, thereby developing the nation’s agribusiness sector, increasing exports, and generating jobs.

According to IFC, unsafe food accounts for an estimated annual productivity loss of around $500 million to $750 million a year in Myanmar. Further, inadequate food safety standards and practices can inhibit agribusiness growth and shut domestic companies out of global value chains. Investment in food safety management systems, therefore, is a prerequisite for the growth of the country’s agribusiness, a key sector for Myanmar’s economy.

“Internationally recognized standards have a proven track record of delivering results, which include better risk management and operational efficiency, among others,” said Vikram Kumar, IFC country manager for Myanmar and Thailand. “We are pleased to be working with the entire value chain to make food safety a shared responsibility in Myanmar.”

Apart from exploring a range of issues, the seminar emphasized the need for regulatory frameworks and measures to address food safety in a systemic and sustainable way. More than 300 participants from the food processing and agribusiness sectors attended the event.

“The discussions helped entrepreneurs comprehend how adopting world class food safety management system will help Myanmar increase exports and create jobs, thus driving the economy,” said U Ye Min Aung, vice-president of UMFCCI.

Gail Marzetti, head of the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom in Myanmar, said, “Often the adoption and effective implementation of internationally accepted food safety standards and certifications can at first be perceived as a burden to businesses. Yet, if we understand that consumers and regulators need to have trust in modern food producers and sellers for those businesses to succeed then we start to understand that these standards will only improve the situation for businesses.”

IFC’s advisory work on improving Myanmar’s food safety practices, reforming regulations, and improving business environment in the agribusiness sector is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom and the government of Japan.