In order to be granted EU market entry, Georgian agricultural products will need to fulfil food safety requirements. Low risk food (e.g. various fruit and groceries) can enter the EU market more easily than high risk food (e.g. meat and dairy). Processed and high-risk food export requires three primary requirements to be fulfilled by Georgia:
- Product ingredients need to be in line with European Union requirements;
- The exporter will need to have information on both the full chain of production, as well as on all relevant laboratory tests needed to establish safety of their products.
- A system similar to the existing control mechanisms in the EU (inspection, supervision, monitoring etc.) will need to be implemented in Georgia.
In order to fulfill these requirements it is necessary to initiate legal and institutional approximation of the country to the EU, as per the DCFTA. 6 months after the DCFTA entered into force, Georgia presented the European Union with a regulations approximation program divided into prioritized fields. Procedures for defining individual arrangements or equivalency of arrangement groups for sectors, subsectors, goods or goods groups can be conducted for exporting to the EU. The equivalency procedure enabled the Government not to wait for the completion of the legal process and request equivalency for prioritized sectors.
For example, when exporting fish to the EU:
- Fish in Georgia will be evaluated for diseases through documental or inspection means; fish producers and control systems will be inspected; fish ingredients will be evaluated for compliance with EU regulations; the efficiency of the National Food Agency’s fish producer inspections will be evaluated;
- Results of the evaluation conducted by the aforementioned agency will be taken into account;
- Prior to the start of the equivalency recognition process, the Government of Georgia will need to approximate Georgia’s legislation with the fish-related regulations active in the EU.
Following are the primary steps required in order to export high-risk goods to the European Union:
- Step 1 – Registering and validating the Food Manufacturer;
- Step 2 – Equipping the manufacturer in compliance with general hygiene rules;
- Step 3 – Facilitating a system of traceability based on HACCP principles;
- Step 4 – Government-initiated legislative approximation of Georgia to the EU, within the realities of the country at the time;
- Step 5 – Government-initiated facilitation of a control system analogous to that of the EU;
- Step 6 – Manufacturers produce goods in accordance with EU regulations;
- Step 7 – Based on the evaluation of the National Food Agency, issuing a positive conclusion on the product’s compliance with Georgian legislation;
- Step 8 – Government-initiated request to define equivalency for a sector or specific product;
- Step 9 – EU begins equivalency study 3 months after receiving request;
- Step 10 – EU issues affirmative or negative decision on the product’s export to the EU market no later than 360 days after receiving the equivalency request.
Notably, manufacturers may individually acquire rights to export high-risk food in the EU (without waiting for full sector equivalency recognition), if:
- The manufacturer fulfils EU requirements of processed food safety and health;
- The manufactories will be in line with EU requirements;
- The National Food Agency facilitates a list of such manufacturers and provides the EU with guarantees that these companies fulfil health and safety requirements in the EU.
Recognition of equivalency provides the manufacturer with means to export certain produce on the EU market, while also simplifying physical border checks and pre-sale procedures.