As Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) countries manage the fallout from COVID-19, ensuring that trade continues flowing while expanding regional cooperation can support the recovery and achieve sustainable growth.

Despite being a major producer of top agricultural commodities in the world, agriculture comprises only around 10% of CAREC exports (excluding the PRC). Access to global markets is crucial to CAREC countries but has been undermined by inadequate and outdated SPS systems.

Modernizing sanitary and phytosanitary measures can protect consumers’ health, manage transboundary risks to animal and plant health, and support agriculture ecosystems, which will help develop agricultural value chains and diversify economies.

The CAREC Program is helping its members address this including with co-financing from the Regional Cooperation and Integration Fund, and the People’s Republic of China Poverty Reduction and Regional Cooperation Fund.


Food is fundamental to human survival. Food sustains us, binds us together, and is the cornerstone of cultures and nations. Sustainable agricultural production and vibrant trade are common goals for Central Asia. The countries of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program produce and export large amounts of wheat, fruit and vegetables, cotton, oilseeds, live animals, meat, milk and animal hides.

However, there are countless threats that, if left unchecked, could seriously damage production and disrupt trade. Pests, diseases, and invasive species pose risks that can harm lives and livelihoods of people across the world. Managing these risks – like managing response to COVID-19 pandemic – demands coordination across sectors and across borders.

The CAREC Common Agenda for Modernization of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures for Trade aims to promote concerted reforms, identify priority investments, and complement trade facilitation initiatives of Customs agencies. Safe trade can be enhanced with harmonized SPS measures, new technologies, improved knowledge and exchange among policymakers and experts. This will strengthen agricultural supply chains and reduce the rejection and wastage of food at borders. Managing pest risks entails huge investments in pest monitoring and surveillance in Georgia. The commitment and skilled specialists of the National Food Agency were critical to address the spread of the brown marmorated stink bug that severely damaged their hazelnut production.

An initiative to strengthen pest risk management will help add horticultural value along the Fergana Valley. It will also allow the participating CAREC countries of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan to access new markets.

Keeping food safe depends on adequate processes and procedures to prevent contamination. Turkmenistan is improving food safety practices among small manufacturers and catering businesses. The pilot project with the Ministry of Health will create food safety management and inspection systems that are efficient but simplified and cost-effective.

The transboundary transmission of animal disease is also a serious threat with socioeconomic and public health consequences. Countries such as the People’s Republic of China and Mongolia have set up the mechanism for joint control of these diseases.  Others are exploring twinning activities and international exchange to share best practices on early detection, surveillance, and zoning to manage the spread of diseases.

Enhancing livestock exports will help diversify Mongolia’s economy. Agriculture, inspection and border agencies working together can help boost agri-food trade.  One ongoing project will upgrade the country’s SPS laboratories and border quarantine and inspection facilities. Similarly, coordinated border management projects are proposed for neighboring countries such as Azerbaijan and Georgia as well between Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

The CAREC Integrated Trade Agenda 2030 will continue to help member countries better respond to emerging issues that transcend boundaries.

As CAREC countries cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping trade open while managing risks is crucial for sustainable recovery. This requires continued momentum in modernizing SPS measures.

Join us today in taking further steps toward stronger regional cooperation on promoting Central Asia’s agri-food trade and protecting value chains for generations to come.