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New certification agreement facilitates export of organic Lebanese produce to Europe

Morabito and Ciucciomei speak at the workshop in Tawlet, Mar Mikhail. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese organic produce can now be exported to Europe without authorization from each Agriculture Ministry in individual countries, thanks to food certification agreements announced Monday.

The agreements – signed Sunday between the Mediterranean Institute of Certification (IMC), IMC Liban, Italian certification bodies CCPB and the Consortium for Research and Training on Quality and Food Safety (RIFOSAL) – focus on certification, quality and food safety development.

A delegation of Italian food certification companies is in Lebanon for a two-day mission, under the patronage of the Italian Embassy in Beirut, to increase quality control in the agro-food sector in Lebanon.

The agreements’ implementation will “rely on the experience and know-how acquired by the IMC, operational in the area for over 10 years with accredited offices and local staff,” said a press release from the embassy.

Agreements between the IMC and national IMC bodies, and the Italian certification bodies were also signed in Morocco, Egypt and Turkey.

Speaking at Monday’s news conference, Italian Ambassador to Lebanon Giuseppe Morabito said that the signing of the agreements was “a major step in protecting the health of Lebanese citizens and for encouraging Lebanese exports.”

Product certification, Morabito added, increases opportunities for companies in the increasingly lucrative organic sector, which has increased in value by 10 percent over the last 20 years, he said, and which is now worth 20 billion euros ($25 billion) a year in Europe, representing 1.5 percent of the entire food market.

“From here, we can understand the importance for companies to label their products as ‘organic’ after having obtained a proper certification.

“I want to underline again that the products’ certification increases the opportunities for companies to access markets and this is even more vital for companies from the Mediterranean area, which has one of the richest- and highest-quality agro-food heritage and tradition in the world,” Morabito added.

“Both Italian and Lebanese producers can benefit from the agreements announced today [Monday], which are also consistent with the effort put in place by the Lebanese government to achieve quality certification of agricultural products.”

Director of the IMC Remo Ciucciomei said: “We want to provide consumers, companies that are operating in the Mediterranean food chain and local authorities with our experience of over 12 years in the Mediterranean area, hoping that Italian companies develop a real attention to the Mediterranean potentialities in terms of quality agriculture and food.”

Monday’s news conference was held at the Tawlet restaurant in Mar Mikhail, which has been certified by the IMC as “Conosci il Tuo Pasto” (“Know Your Meal”) and awards restaurants which use only quality, local produce.

Tawlet is one of only three restaurants in Lebanon to be certified in this way, alongside Le Table de Joseph, the restaurant at the Biomass organic farm, and O-Box at TSC Signature in Downtown Beirut, both of which were on the agenda for the delegation, as well as Le Petit Gris restaurant, which is in the process of receiving “Conosci il Tuo Pasto” accreditation.

The delegation will also visit the Adyar monastery and the Adyar IMC certified organic winery.

Paul Ariss, head of the Restaurant Owners Association in Lebanon, thanked the delegation, and said that after a difficult five years, Lebanon’s restaurant sector was in need of such measures of support.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 03, 2012, on page 5.

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