COMESA has rolled out a training program to educate Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Food Safety and the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system (HACCP) in order to improve the their business and optimize the benefits of regional integration.

32nd meeting of the intergovernmental committee-7The first training was held from 30 September – 3 October, 2013 in Kampala, and was jointly organized by COMESA/FEMCOM and the Makerere University. Besides imparting knowledge on HACCP and food safety management systems the training was also aimed at guiding SMEs on requirements for HACCP certification for processed food products.

Ugandan Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Hon Amelia Kyambade opened the training with an appeal to Entrepreneurs in SMEs to take advantage of the various trainings that COMESA was conducting. She said the training supports the COMESA economic integration agenda, by ensuring the transfer of knowledge and skills to comply with food safety standards that are pre-requisite to integration of SMEs products into regional and global supply chains.

Hon Kyambade further said there is need for Member States to meet Food safety and HACCP in order to advance the export potential of agro- processed products. This will enable them manage food safety problems in the highly regulated regional and international markets, where food safety standards influence prices and consumer choices tremendously.

FEMCOM Executive Director, Mrs. Katherine Ichoya, said the agro-foods sector and the SMEs in the COMESA region contribute approximately 50 to 70 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as well as providing fifty per cent of employment. With further support and capacity building, she said, SMEs have the potential to contribute beyond the current levels. The training was in line with the COMESA Medium Term Strategic Plan which includes six strategic priority areas as key divers for regional integration. These include removal of barriers to trade, building productive capacity for global competitiveness and addressing supply side constraints related to infrastructure.

Participating SMEs where drawn from various agro-processing sectors, among them, cassava, rice, groundnuts, beans, sorghum, maize, fruits and vegetables sub- sectors. Among the products being processed include; flour, baby foods, dried vegetables, peanut butter, cereals, jam, fruit juice, biscuits, starch and wines and beer.