Providing support to the SVO in preparation and implementation of the action plan in response to recommendations in the report of the EU FVO Mission
The assignment was carried out as part of ORGUT’s subcontract with Chemonics International within the USAID/Sida project –FARMA in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The purpose of USAID/Sida FARMA is to provide technical assistance in agricultural sub-sectors through demand driven assistance aimed at improved competitiveness of agricultural products. USAID/Sida FARMA is a development project jointly funded by USAID and Sida and implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina. USAID/Sida FARMA is to expand environmentally sustainable production, processing, and sales of value-added agricultural products. The expected result of FARMA is contribution to poverty reduction. USAID/Sida FARMA is implemented by Chemonics International with ORGUT as a subcontractor. ORGUT provides consulting services aiming at increasing agricultural competitiveness, meeting EU accession standards, reducing poverty by expanding environmentally sustainable production, and increasing sales, exports, and employment. USAID/Sida FARMA’s approach focuses on four integrated components: Building sustainable market linkages for producers; Increasing access to finance; Building the capacity of producer organisations’ and other counterparts; and Enhancing the policy environment to benefit competitiveness of agricultural goods. In order to attain project goals, USAID/ Sida FARMA uses various tools, including a Development Fund and Partners Fund for targeted subcontracts to local partners.
The EU FVO Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina was held between 20 and 31 January 2014. The scope of the EU FVO audit was to evaluate if the competent authority and the system of official control is adequate to ensure safety of dairy products produced in BiH. This was done through interviews and inspection of Competent Authority staff, resources and facilities. More specifically, the Competent Authority's ability to conduct adequate official controls was verified through visits to business operators (farms, dairy processors) as well as laboratories and inspection services.
The FVO mission did not have the role to approve/reject individual companies, only evaluate if the Competent Authority has the legal power and capability to conduct official control, and specifically that Competent Authority has in place and uses appropriately the capability to register or approve the business operators that comply with EU requirements.
An exit meeting was held with the Competent Authorities on 31 January 2014. Preliminary conclusions of the mission were presented by the FVO Mission and discussed.
The preliminary conclusion by the FVO is that first steps are made in the right direction. However, the official system needs to be further strengthened and additional steps need to be made to improve milk quality. Deficiencies were noted in the following areas:
- Organizational structure of competent authorities (CA) – it was noted that the implementation of the protocol was in progress but all aspects at this stage could not be evaluated. However, it was noted that there needs to be better coordination to strengthen veterinary controls. Furthermore, local CA is left on its own and without harmonized instructions. There seems to be a lack of follow up when inspectors note deficiencies in dairy businesses. It is also clear that the vet service was very active to prepare for the EU FVO visit (but that the EU needs to be assured that food safety guarantees always exist and not just prior to FVO visit). Farms did not fully comply with procedures for registration of animals and evidence of use of vet medicines was not fully available. Overall, the certification process cannot be trusted.
- Dairy processors – they have acceptable structure and layout and equipment meets the standards. However, there is no evidence that official inspectors react when non-compliances are noted.
- Quality criteria for raw milk – it is a concern that only a few farms in BiH meet EU milk quality criteria. There is no routine testing of milk at the farm level – only at the point of entry at the dairies when the milk is mixed from several farms.
- Animal registration – central database is under review. There are errors and inconsistencies with data re farm and animal registration. Also, there are issues with animal movement controls - health certificate on TB and brucellosis tests are sometimes missing.
Clearly, the major issues were noted with the organizational structure of competent authorities and the overall functioning of the system of official control. FVO reiterated that veterinary officers need to be fully aware what is happening in dairies and that this needs to be always documented in reports (including follow up on any non compliance). There needs to be much better cooperation between vet officers and dairies.
The next step is that the EU FVO will draft the report and share it with the BiH Competent Authority (i.e. State Vet Office) for comments. BiH CA will be expected to develop an action plan in response to the recommendations of the final report with a time table to correct the identified deficiencies. The EU FVO will then evaluate the action plan. Once the EU FVO accepts the action plan they will then be able to consider their next visit. The timing of the next visit depends on how quickly and adequately BiH prepares the action plan and on the availability of EU FVO inspectors.