The ASEAN Food and Beverage Alliance (AFBA) was officially launched in Singapore on 18 April, following FIA’s 3rd Annual General Meeting.

Attended by senior ASEAN officials and leading experts from the region’s food and beverage industry, the launch highlighted the importance of common food standards and the removal of technical barriers to trade in facilitating intra- and extra-regional trade.

Noting that the region’s food industry employs more than four million people through 300,000 companies – of which 95 per cent are small and medium enterprises (SMEs) – AFBA Chairman for Singapore, Mr Sunny Koh, highlighted in his opening address that ASEAN’s food industry plays a vital role in the development of the region’s economy.

“The success of ASEAN’s efforts to stimulate the free flow of food products across the region, and more widely across the globe, is extremely important for the overall economic development of the region.

“AFBA has been established to work alongside the public sector and other key stakeholders to help remove technical barriers to trade and promote a collaborative approach to achieving sustainable growth in the food sector for the benefit of small, medium and large enterprises and their consumers in ASEAN markets,” he said.

The harmonisation of food standards in ASEAN will also contribute to the region’s economic development and the realisation of the food industry’s huge growth potential, according to AFBA Chairman for Indonesia, Mr Adhi Lukman.

“We need common food standards and cross-border integration to realise our full potential and increase our current growth. As a vehicle dedicated to driving the harmonisation of food standards, AFBA will help support the ASEAN single market goals and help make the region a globally competitive force,” he said.

The launch event also included presentations by Ms Sulaimah Mahmood, Senior Economic Official’s Meeting (SEOM) leader for Singapore and ASEAN Division Director, Ministry of Trade and Industry; Dr Roy Sparringa, Chairman of the ASEAN Prepared Foodstuff Product Working Group (PFPWG); Ms Tan Poh Hong, CEO of the Agri-Food Veterinary Authority of Singapore and Mr Pushpanathan Sundram, Managing Director of EAS and Principal Advisor to AFBA.

Their presentations emphasised the role of the private sector in helping the region meet the goals of the ASEAN Economic Communitythrough dedicated Alliances such as AFBA.

As a symbol of AFBA’s commitment to a wider partnership, members of the AFBA Executive Board presented their collective Vision Declaration to Ms Mahmood, Dr Sparringa and Ms Tan during the launch.

AFBA Chairman for Brunei, Mr Abdul Halim Saim, concluded that with common food standards, ASEAN will have better ability to provide safe, nutritious and high quality food products to its 604 million citizens.

"AFBA brings together the collective knowledge and expertise of key food industry leaders in the region. We look forward to seeing all parties working together to develop policies and standards that promote the efficient production and movement of food between countries to make safe, high quality products more available and accessible to the region’s fast-growing population,” he said.

FIA Executive Director, Bev Postma, concluded that yesterday’s launch of AFBA was a milestone for the food industry in ASEAN.

“AFBA is committed to making a meaningful contribution to a single market approach and we look forward to seeing how all parties work together to further unleash the potential of the food industry in ASEAN,” she said.