FIA has initiated a formal consultation with leaders of national food industry associations across Asia, in order to seek their feedback on the formation of a new ASEAN industry group – the ASEAN Food & Beverage Alliance (AFBA).

The concept for AFBA was born out of discussions with national associations at the Food Industry Summit held on 6 September2012. It is designed to be a dedicated industry body that can effectively represent the interests of small, medium and large food companies in discussions and interactions with policymakers and regulators in the ASEAN region.

The alliance will consist of a group of national, regional or global associations, federations and organisations involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of food and non-alcoholic beverage products in the ASEAN region. The body will be supported by FIA and will primarily focus on accelerating the harmonisation of food standards in ASEAN.

Bev Postma, Executive Director of FIA, welcomed the beginning of the consultation process.

“At the Summit in September, we saw the urgent need for a dedicated platform from which the industry can play a more proactive role in supporting the goals of the ASEAN Economic Community. The harmonisation of food standards and the removal of technical barriers to trade have been identified as a major priority for the food industry in ASEAN. Now, as a result of solid input from FIA’s Science and Technical Committee (STC) over the past few months we have been able to develop a clear operating framework, which we will share with National Associations and SME groups to garner their support and involvement.”

In addition to the formal consultation with food industry associations, FIA will also share the AFBA plan with key regulators in ASEAN at the ACCSQ Prepared Food Products Working Group (PFPWG) meeting which will be held on 5 and 6 December in Malaysia. This will be the first time an industry body has been invited to present to the PFPWG and demonstrates the level of commitment that exists within the ASEAN Secretariat.

The proposed AFBA model will be governed by an Executive Board comprising representatives from the national food industry associations in the 10 ASEAN Member States plus four representatives from the FIA Coordinating Council and Technical Committees and up to two representatives from recognised ASEAN SME groups.

The Alliance’s primary objective is to support and accelerate the ASEAN harmonisation process for the benefit of small, medium and large enterprises and their consumers in ASEAN markets. It proposes to do this by strengthening partnerships between Government and national associations, providing constructive input into proposed food industry laws and standards and offering insight and technical information on harmonisation. A copy of the detailed Concept Paper can be found here.

Ms Postma has invited national food industry associations to respond to the concept paper by 21st December and, subject to their feedback, the Executive Board is expected to hold its first meeting on 23rd January in Singapore.

“The consultation process is an important part of the development of AFBA. If we can get the model right and generate the necessary support from SMEs and food industry associations, I believe we have an effective, inclusive vehicle for providing a common food industry voice in ASEAN member states and accelerating the overall harmonisation of food standards in the region.

“We aim to make this a case study in best practice of public private collaboration and we look forward to receiving the feedback of our members.”