Ukraine tells of war impact on food safety at meeting of World Trade Organization

Ukraine has appealed for help to keep its food control system running during the Russian invasion and called for less strict trade measures to boost exports.

Comments were made about how the conflict with Russia was affecting food safety, plant health, and animal welfare via a statement at a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting.

The infrastructure of the State Food and Consumer Service of Ukraine, its institutions and laboratories have been damaged and the country appealed for assistance to replace destroyed veterinary and phytosanitary labs.

Up to half a million tons of imported plant products, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, flour, planting material and other goods have been inspected in the past three months.

However, Ukrainian officials said conducting state veterinary and sanitary inspection and control in the temporarily occupied territories of the country was “impossible”.

Source of grain

As seaports are blocked, the only way to export products of animal and plant origin to other countries is through EU countries.

The statement accused Russia of stealing grain from Ukrainian territory, tampering with certificates and attempting to sell it as their own on international markets. It urged countries to not buy grain from Russia if there was no certainty about its origin.

“Such actions would require issuance of illegal phytosanitary certificates. Absence of legitimate certificates could indicate non-compliance of products with current phytosanitary requirements, quality and safety standards, presence of contamination of products by various quarantine pests, be evidence of illegal trade in products and their non-compliance with terms of foreign trade contracts,” Ukrainian officials said

Russia said the WTO was not the proper place for such a discussion.

Ukraine had previously warned that Russia’s invasion of the country threatened food safety and could increase food fraud.

Other trade concern highlights
During the meeting of the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures in June, members raised 51 Specific Trade Concerns (STC), six of them for the first time. Issues included pesticide maximum residue limits, animal diseases and COVID-19 related measures.

New topics covered BSE-related restrictions, regulations on animal health official certificates for animal origin foods and honey involving China and Europe and radioactivity checks on imported food by Egypt.

Previously raised STCs were related to pesticide tolerances and the environment, legislation for endocrine disruptors and veterinary medicinal products, collagen for human consumption, and phytosanitary certification requirements.

Others mentioned measures imposed by China, with some countries wanting to better understand China’s COVID-19 regulatory approach, and the procedure to register exporting establishments.

An SPS declaration on new challenges affecting food safety and animal and plant health was adopted at the 12th Ministerial Conference in June, covering the SPS Agreement and role of the SPS Committee.

María Pagán, of the United States, said this agreement is vital for protecting human, plant and animal health while supporting trade in food and agricultural products.

“Ministers have embraced this opportunity to look ahead at how the SPS Agreement can help WTO members facilitate safe trade and ensure food can get to those who need it, and have directed this committee to undertake this important task,” she said.

Finally, the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF) annual report for 2021 has been published. The STDF supports developing countries to meet international standards and gain market access. It was established by the WTO, FAO, WHO, World Organisation for Animal Health and World Bank Group.

It covers STDF-supported projects and grants on lowering aflatoxin contamination in maize in Burkina Faso to reduce borders rejections, promoting IT solutions for pest surveillance and reporting in the Asia-Pacific and strengthening safety and quality of Sri Lankan spices for export.

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