Kyrgyz honey, nuts, dried fruits, and beans have potential for export to Europe

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BISHKEK (TCA) — The first EU technical mission on GSP+ visited Kyrgyzstan in February to produce an assessment of the current state of play of testing laboratories available in Kyrgyzstan and specifically of those having international certification to approve the quality of products to be exported to the EU Member States. The mission has now presented a detailed report, shared with both the Government of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Delegation of the European Union to the country.

The mission aimed at assisting the Kyrgyz Republic in increasing its exports’ flows to the EU Member States in accordance with the GSP+ provisions and to enhance the country’s regional economic competitiveness, the Delegation of the European Union to the Kyrgyz Republic said. A comprehensive assessment of the authorities’ capabilities to ensure the implementation of GSP+ provisions and requirements, and an overview of the situation of existing products quality control laboratories in the Kyrgyz Republic is a necessary first step to develop modern testing procedures in line with international standards.

For the implementation of the mission, meetings and interviews have been organized with representatives from both public and private sectors.

The mission’s main findings, among others, include the following:
– Kyrgyzstan can export honey to the EU but not other animal products;
– The number of products with potential for export to the EU is limited to vegetables and honey;
– Production raw material costs for textiles have raised with the admission of Kyrgyzstan to the Eurasian Economic Union, making these products even less competitve for export to the EU;
– Among 8 visited laboratories under renovation, only one in Bishkek is almost fully equipped and accredited according to international standards ISO 17025 for food products;
– Too many laboratories are being renovated and accredited for food testing. For such a small country two of them, one in the south and another in the north, would be enough;
– Food laboratories have little or no knowledge of the EU food safety standards, procedures and methodologies.

The mission recommended that the number of laboratories in charge for food product testing should be reduced to two units, one in Bishkek and one in Osh, under the coordination of one single Authority.

The renovation of the laboratories should focus on products with potential for export to Europe, such as honey, nuts, dried fruits, and beans.

Other potential products for exports are aromatic herbs (food, medicine, cosmetics), fish, and biological products.

The European Union granted GSP+ status to Kyrgyzstan in January 2016.   

The GSP+ is a component of the EU Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) for developing countries. It offers additional trade incentives to countries that already benefit from GSP and that ratify and implement core international conventions on human and labour rights, sustainable development and good governance.

The GSP+ enhanced preferences mean full removal of tariffs on more than 6000 product categories, a step forward from the GSP scheme. Under the GSP+, Kyrgyz exporters are able to supply to the European Union at zero tariff rate agricultural products such as fruits, processed fruits (canned, juice), dried fruits (walnuts, almonds, pistachios), food products, tobacco, and textiles, felt products, clothing, including leather, and carpets. This is a unilateral measure taken by the European Union; the customs tariffs imposed by Kyrgyzstan on imports from the European Union remain in place.

According to official Kyrgyz statistics, in January-November 2016, enjoying the GSP+ status, 50 Kyrgyz enterprises exported $68 million worth of products to EU countries, including beans (30%), ethnic garment, mummy, honey, nuts, and dried fruits (23%), and mushrooms (9%).

Sergey Kwan

TCA