The First Meeting of the Special Experts Working Group on the ASEAN Regional Standards for Organic Agriculture and the 9th Meeting of the Task Force on ASEAN Standards for Horticultural Produce and Other Food Crops officially opened in Brunei’s capital, Banda Seri Begawan, on April 8.

The five-day meetings, jointly held by the Brunei Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources’ Agriculture and Agrifood Department and the ASEAN Secretariat, have drawn representatives from all 10 member nations.

The Acting Director of the Department, Hajah Aidah binti Haji Mohd Haniffah, stressed the important role of ASEAN as the region’s leading exporter of agricultural and food products.

However, she noted that ASEAN is facing challenges posed by trade liberalisation, adding that the region needs to produce horticultural and food products that can compete in both regional and international markets.

Aidah went on to assert that it is imperative to adopt and harmonise ASEAN member states' national standards with the established international standards.

Officials and experts at the meetings discussed issues related to boosting organic farming under a sustainable agro-ecological model.

There are no specific guidelines or standards for organic agriculture in ASEAN member countries, participants admitted, adding that the development of organic farming in the region depends on the actions of individual countries.

Participant will prepare draft standards for organic produce, build a future working agenda for the Working Group and propose activities to develop the strategic action plan.

ASEAN is building an economic community for 2015, which recognises the importance of the agricultural sector and the Single Market and Production Base.

Since the First Meeting of the Task Force on ASEAN Standards for Horticultural and other Food Crops took place in 2005, the grouping has established 24 ASEAN standards for various tropical fruits and vegetables.-VNA