By Kamila Aliyeva
Azerbaijan takes a new step to provide the country’s population with safe food products as reliable food supply is essential for the stability of the country's economic and social development.
The Azerbaijan Food Security Institute will become a new stage in the development of food safety in the country. This was stated by Deputy Economy Minister Sahib Mammadov on November 14.
"Such measures serve to ensure food security, improve the quality [of the country's products] and support a system approach in developing food safety sphere," the deputy minister said.
He went on to say that the establishment of the institute will also support the country's export.
"There are requirements for exported products, both in terms of their quality and packaging. The Institute will also provide its support in both directions," Mammadov added.
A public legal entity, the Azerbaijan Food Security Institute, is created under the Food Security Agency. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has signed a decree on ensuring the activity of the Food Security Agency on November 13.
The decree approves the "State of the Food Security Agency" and "Structure of the Food Security Agency". Under the decree, the limit of the staff of the Food Security Agency is set at 75 positions.
The decree determines that the Azerbaijan Food Security Institute conducts scientific and practical research in the field of food safety, carries out risk assessment on the basis of scientific principles, develops draft technical regulations in the field of food security and represents by designation, renders services in the study of safety indicators of foodstuffs.
Currently, reliable food supply of the population of the state is one of the main directions of Azerbaijan’s economy policy.
The country carries out multifaceted measures on reliable food supply and implements the large-scale government programs aimed at the development of the agricultural sector, which is the determinant of the food security.
The basis of development policy of the agricultural sector where a large percentage of the population employed was laid back in the mid-90s. Azerbaijan was the fastest country to carry out the land reforms among the CIS member states. Mechanisms to help agricultural producers were established and together with international organizations, including the World Bank and the UN Food Organization (FAO), the implementation of important projects in this area has been launched.
The development of the agricultural sector is one main directions of the president's strategy to diversify the economy.
Azerbaijan has 4.8 million hectares of agricultural land, that comprises over 50 percent of its total territory, of which 39.6 percent is arable. Meanwhile, the food-processing sector constitutes an important component of the national economy and accounts for over 38 percent of total manufacturing industry. Employment in the agriculture sector hit 1.7 million as of early 2017, which comprises 37 percent of the economically active population of Azerbaijan. The agrarian sector grew by 2.2 percent and agricultural exports by more than 40 percent over the first half of 2017.
Thus, agriculture is of particular importance both in terms of the development of non-oil sector, reduction of unemployment and poverty, as well as securing food supplies to the population.
Azerbaijan exported agricultural products in the amount of $374.8 million in January-August 2017, which is 47.4 percent more than in the same period of 2016.
In general, production of agricultural products increased by 2.8 percent in Azerbaijan in January-September 2017 compared to the same period of 2016.
Kamila Aliyeva is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Kami_Aliyeva
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