Stakeholder Consultation Workshop on National Food Import Scheme launched
A stakeholder consultation workshop on the National Food Import Scheme was conducted by Maldives Food and Drug Authority on 16th February at Asaree Hall, SHE Building. This workshop was inaugurated by the Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen.
Maldives Food and Drug Authority is the government organization responsible for food safety in Maldives. Since the vast majority of food in this country is imported, a strong border control system is necessary to ensure food safety. Under the current system, 30% of each shipment is inspected by MFDA border control staff. In addition, high risk products such as eggs and meat require a health certificate before import is approved. Many changes have occurred in this country since this system was initiated, including the opening of international airports in different parts of the country. In addition, with the rise in globalisation, this system of systematic, random inspection is no longer considered an effective method of ensuring food safety. Instead, risk-based inspection is strongly preferred by international organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and relevant organisations under the United Nations Organisation. The updated scheme for Food Importation will therefore address many of the food safety issues that currently occur in Maldives. In addition, this scheme is necessary to streamline Maldives with the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement, which was ratified in Maldives on 29th October 2019.
The workshop was held to discuss the updated scheme with relevant government and private bodies. Over 30 participants attended from various organisations, including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Economic Development, Ministry of Fisheries, Agriculture and Marine Resources, and Ministry of Tourism, as well as from border control agencies such as Maldives Customs Service, MACL, and MPL. In addition, fifteen businesses that commonly import food attended to represent the private sector. The contributions of the variety of participants from different sectors will be essential to update the import scheme in a way that is feasible, clear, and does not compromise food safety for consumers. In addition, the presence of different border control related agencies allowed them to discuss the measures that should be included in the updated scheme to reduce the issue of overlapping work. Thus, with the contributions of these different organisations, MFDA and the Ministry of Health can endorse and implement an updated and multisectoral National Food Import Scheme.