Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

For formulations of international standards for the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) and to improve the capacity of the national experts to contribute to the national codex structure, a three-day training for over 35 individuals from various organisations began in Punakha September 20.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and WHO established the Codex Alimentarius or ‘Food Code’ in 1963 to develop harmonised international food standards that protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.

Bhutan became a member state of the CAC in 1999.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority’s (BAFRA) director general, Tashi Samdup, said that CAC has various committees and BAFRA alone cannot contribute to the committees during the formulation of international food standards and related texts. “Therefore, the contribution from our local experts is extremely essential.”

Codex Advocacy Workshop  “Achieving leadership in the codex process” is one of the activities of the Codex Trust Fund phase two project, which began in 2019.

According to Codex Bhutan focal officer, Kubir N Bhattarai, a project between 2003 and 2013 also engaged participants from developing countries in Codex meeting.

He added that while the participants formulated international standards, the internal codex structure within Bhutan was still lacking. “Through the trust fund, our aim is to build the structure of the national codex structure. So one important thing is capacity building of all stakeholders and experts from relevant agencies because we want to involve them in Codex.”

Kubir N Bhattarai said that it is also important for Bhutan to contribute to the international standards to ensure that Bhutan’s concerns are raised. “Why is it important for us is now global trade is happening. So Codex’s basic standard is food safety and if we don’t meet that standard it will be difficult to ensure food safety inside the country, and it could pose difficulties in exporting  products because our products will not meet the standard of the international market.”

The workshop is part of Codex Trust Fund tripartite project for Bhutan, India and Nepal, with the goal to strengthen the function of National Codex Structures through effective engagement of all stakeholders in Codex activities and standard-setting process.

Kubir N Bhattarai said that through the current project, a Procedural Manual for the Codex Bhutan, which would guide the national codex structure, was also made.

BAFRA, he said, is in the process of developing a portal for the dissemination of information on Codex. “Third part of the project is establishing a codex office within BAFRA. Right now we do have Codex office but is manned by one or two. But we have established codex Bhutan secretariat.”

The project, funded by FAO and WHO through the Codex Trust Fund, is implemented by BAFRA.