Jakarta (ANTARA) - The Indonesian Food and Drug Supervisory Agency (BPOM) has commenced a kick-off meeting with its Saudi Arabian counterpart regarding the supply of food for Indonesian Hajj and Umrah pilgrims.

"Today is a kick-off meeting following up on the meeting between the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA), Indonesia, and the Saudi Arabian government in terms of strengthening the trade and import of animal-based food products, especially farmed and captured fish," BPOM Head Penny Lukito said in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The bilateral meeting was chaired by Lukito and the CEO of SFDA, Dr. Hisham S. Al Jadhey, at the BPOM office in Jakarta.

The meeting was also attended by the Indonesian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Abdul Aziz Ahmad, as well as representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lukito said the meeting was part of Indonesia's diplomacy to increase the volume of animal-based food trade with Saudi Arabia following the increase in the Hajj quota for Indonesia this year.

The governments of Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) regarding the 2023 Hajj implementation under which Indonesia has received a quota of 221 thousand—203,320 regular Hajj candidates, 17,680 special Hajj candidates, and 4,200 officers. The quota has been doubled from last year's Hajj season, when it stood at just 100,051.

Lukito said that the number does not include pilgrims embarking on Umrah, which has now been opened for Indonesian people on account of the controlled pandemic situation.

"In addition, Saudi Arabia is developing the capacity of mosques, especially the Grand Mosque for Umrah and Hajj, which are increasingly expanding," she disclosed.

Therefore, this situation must be anticipated by the Indonesian government, including through the provision of food requests from Indonesian pilgrims, she said.

Earlier, BPOM was appointed by the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs as the competent authority for guaranteeing the quality and safety of Indonesian products entering the Saudi Arabia market, she informed.

"BPOM and SFDA have made an MoU since 2018. Thus, communication will become more intensive in conducting training and laboratory research," she said.

According to Lukito, animal food producers in Saudi Arabia have experienced several obstacles, especially related to fish, poultry, and meat commodities, as well as their derivative products. The obstacles have been related to licensing and also inspection rules and direct audits of related industries carried out by the SFDA team.

“BPOM, as the competent authority for the export of animal-based food products to Saudi Arabia, has an obligation to encourage the acceleration of exports of these food commodities because Saudi Arabia has high standards," she explained.

Lukito said that Indonesia is ready to export fish to Saudi Arabia through the operations of 58 Fish Processing Units (UPI) at SFDA.

"BPOM also encourages the immediate approval of 74 UPIs, which are still in the SFDA review process. Currently, there are eight UPIs ready to export and be inspected to accelerate the licensing process, especially to meet the needs of the 2023 Hajj pilgrimage," she informed.

Regarding poultry products, she said that Indonesia already has an avian influenza-free certificate by compartment. Currently, SFDA only accepts poultry from avian influenza-free countries.

However, SFDA can accept poultry from countries with avian influenza-free status per city or zone. Thus, Indonesia will need to promptly submit a self-declaration to the World Organization for Animal Health (WOAH or OIE) for avian influenza-free status per city or zone that may allow SFDA to open market access for Indonesian poultry products to Saudi Arabia, Lukito disclosed.

Moreover, the CEO of SFDA, Hisham S. Al Jadhey, said that there is no ban on the export of meat products from Indonesia to Saudi Arabia. However, a process for inspection is still needed, which will affect the standards for meat products produced by production facilities in Indonesia.

Jadhey also confirmed that SFDA will conduct visits to and inspections of several food industries and UPIs in Indonesia in May.

"This visit aims to ensure the safety of food products containing these animal commodities," he added.

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Translator: Andi Firdaus, Resinta S
Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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