European Union Twinning project "Strengthening sanitary and phytosanitary measures in Azerbaijan", implemented by the Latvian State Plant Protection Service (VAAD) in partnership with the Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) and the State Plant Service of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Lithuania (VATZUM), has come to an end.
The main objective of the project was to promote the safety of food and feed on the market and to improve export opportunities by improving compliance with sanitary and phytosanitary standards. Its specific objective was to strengthen the capacity of the Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan to develop and implement legislation. The project ran from 16 November 2020 to 15 February 2023 and 85 missions were carried out.
The project activities were divided into four components.
Under the first component "Food safety legislation and its further alignment with the EU acquis", ten draft food safety laws were prepared, seven training seminars were held to train 199 risk management and legal staff and inspectors of the Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and a study visit to Latvia took place.
Under the second component "Registration of plant protection products for sale and control system", four draft legislative acts were prepared, including a draft Law on Plant Health. On 24 May 2022, a Plant Health Forum was held, for representatives of the Azerbaijani government entities and other stakeholders, in which main upcoming conceptual changes in the Plant Health and Protection systems of Azerbaijan were presented to a wider public. A proposal for a legislative framework for registration of plant protection products for sale and the introduction of a control system has been prepared. 11 training workshops were held, training 123 staff in charge of the registration of plant protection products and inspectors of the Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan, and a study visit to Lithuania took place.
The third component "Development of residue monitoring programmes based on the legislation developed under Components 1 and 2, appropriate laboratory methods developed and staff trained", a national monitoring plan compliant with EU provisions on pesticide residues, heavy metals, mycotoxins, and other undesired/forbidden substances in fruits and vegetables and recommendations for its implementation were prepared, in addition two training workshops were held to train 30 staff of the Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan responsible for the implementation of the monitoring plan.
Three new methods for analysis of pesticide residues in or on food and feed of plant origin developed and validated. In order to upgrade the competences and capacities of Central Food Safety Laboratory in Baku and Regional Laboratory in Lankaran with focus on ISO 17025 requirements, validation of methods, calibration of laboratory equipment, and proficiency testing, 65 laboratory staff were trained in two training workshops, the analytical methods for identification of pesticide residues were explained to the laboratory staff and recommendations for further strengthening the capacity of the laboratories were made to the management of the Food Safety Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan. A study visit to Latvia took place.
Under the fourth component "Proposals for an information technology based plant protection and phytosanitary information system.", a proposal for the structure and content of an automated food safety information system was prepared.
The closing conference of the project took place on 9 February 2023 in Baku.