Fine-free year for food enterprises
27 January, 2011

Food producing enterprises will not face penalties this year unless the product they produce is hazardous for health. Georgian Government decided to provide entrepreneurs by a year-long preferential control regime to enable them adopt European food security standards.
The revised paragraphs of law on food control entered into effect on January 3, 2011. In compliance with this law the National Food Agency (NFA), a subdue structure to the Agriculture Ministry, launches control of food-producing enterprises by the end of January,

Davit Koberidze, Head of the National Food Agency, informed  businessmen on January 14, 2011 at the amendment presentation event.
According to him, 51 enterprises have already been inspected [in 2010] and 200 more will be checked on security reasons this year. The meat-and-milk-product producing enterprises top the target list as far as the law envisages obligatory inspection of enterprises making the high-risk group.
Actually government started registration of foods-producing enterprises as well as monitoring of the EU-export oriented enterprises in summer of 2010.
The law envisaged enactment of state monitoring at the EU export-oriented food producing companies starting 2011, however once Georgia became hopeful to adopt the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with EU starting 2012 government made things quicker. The problem is that Georgia lacked food safety regulation since 2005 when the key paragraphs of the law on food quality were suspended till 2010 to enable business to get tailored to high security standards. However when the 2010 began the suspension was prolonged till 2013 under the pretext that the financial crisis hampered business to undertake obligatory standards and pressing on observance of international standards might make great number of enterprises to go bankrupt.
And as non-observance of EU standards posed perils to FTA conclusion on the other hand Georgian government decided to make food safety standards obligatory for high-risk group but under business-friendly regime starting 2011.
To this end government decided to make this year somewhat preferential for enterprises and exempts them from penalties and fines envisaged for defects the state inspection will find out there unless these defects lead to producing product hazardous for health.
“The preferential control-year never means that the inspection will not be comprehensive,” Veriko Gulua, a spokesperson of NFA, explained to Georgian Journal. “Absolutely not, the control will include all due factors like sanitary norms, laboratory analysis etc. The privilege of this year is that if the inspection reveals defects enterprises will be give recommendations and timetables how to fix up the defect if this defect is not hazardous for health. In this case entrepreneurs face legal sanctions.”
In case of non-observance of standards the state inspection [of NFA] will restrict themselves by recommendations and consultations how to retrieve the fault within reasonable timetables. If the enterprise does not make up the defect within the set deadlines they may face fines.
However, no penalty rates are defined as of yet. They are still under vision at government and supposed to be worked out this year and enter into effect starting 2012.  
According to Bakur Kvezereli, Minister of Agriculture of Georgia, this year government aims on introduction of amendments made to the law to business and relationship between the entrepreneurs and government will be focused on partnership rather than on restriction of business.  
The pleasant [to business] novelty is that the inspection of enterprise will not as voluntary as before and will be based on strong plan worked out by the NFA. Moreover, enterprises will get a beforehand notice of the planned inspection and can be prepared for the control.
Another novelty is that the enterprise control can be implemented only once or twice a year, the NFA has no right to implement unplanned inspections without a court warrant. Call for unplanned inspection might be based on solid grounds that the produced product is hazardous for health.
Also, as far as the NFA became a public law entity starting January 15, 2011 [before it was the National Service for  Food Safety, Veterinary and Plant Protection (NSFVP) operating at the agriculture ministry] its service becomes payable.
Government will define the service types that will be payable and the price rates soon. But the underway enterprise control will be free of charge, Gulua said. The full information will be available via the official web-page of the NFA that is under modernization at the moment. 

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