6th GENCAT stakeholders meeting and 5th Qualify Strategic Commitee meeting

On Thursday, 30 June 2022, the fifth meeting of the Strategic Committee of the Interreg Europe QUALIFY project, was held in dual format, online and in person. This is a project led by the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda. Almost 50 representatives of the agri-food industry, universities, technology and research centres, consumer associations, producers, civil society, representatives of other departments of Generalitat de Catalunya and other public administrations, attended and actively participated in the event.

After five half-years conducting meetings with partners, exchanging experiences and knowledge, sharing and gathering a compendium of good practices, and performing intense technical and communication work, this meeting closed the first phase of the project. The presentation of the Action Plan for Catalonia, framed within the Strategic Food Plan of Catalonia (PEAC) (2021-2026), included the actions to be carried out during the second phase of the project, which begins next month.

The Action Plan of the Qualify project consists of two main objectives, one of which focuses on raising awareness and creating training and assessment networks, and the second of which is more focused on innovation and digitalisation. In both cases, they have been devised and planned for Catalan agri-food SMEs.

The session began with the institutional welcome by Mr. Joan Gòdia, Director General of Agri-Food Companies, Quality and Gastronomy, of the Department of Climate Action, Food and Rural Agenda of the Generalitat de Catalunya.

Secondly, the Subdirector General of Agri-Food Inspection and Control, Ms Glòria Cugat, made a brief presentation, acknowledging the presence and collaboration of the participants attending the meeting. Then she introduced the first speaker, Ms María Llarena Reino, internal coordinating technician of the QUALIFY project within the General Sub-Directorate for Agri-Food Inspection and Control, who presented the QUALIFY Action Plan for Catalonia.

Mr Ferran Ribas, partner and consultant of GHQ Assessors Company SL, made the first of the two technical presentations related to the central pillars of the Action Plan. This first talk related to the pillar of training was entitled: "Training as a tool to improve the quality and competitiveness of SMEs: New MUCAI (Minimum Applicable and Indivisible Competence Unit)".

Ms Núria Canela, director of the Unit of Omic Sciences of Eurecat (Technological Centre of Catalonia), was the second expert to share her practical vision with us, specifically on how the innovative technologies in the field of the quality and alimentary hygiene can become tools for improving the quality and competitiveness of agri-food SMEs. The title of her presentation was: "Omic technologies in the field of quality and food safety as a tool for the competitiveness of agri-food SMEs".

The last technical presentation was followed by a workshop session organised into working groups that aimed to bring together the opinions of all the actors when bringing to fruition the actions proposed in the Qualify Action Plan for Catalonia. The session was organised according to the two thematic pillars of the project. The workshop session in face-to-face format was led by Ms María Rosa Biel and Eva Gomar, inspectors from the General Sub-Directorate for Agri-Food Inspection and Control, while Mr Ricard Esparza, professor at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and external advisor to the project, moderated the streaming group. In both cases the participants made valuable contributions, offering a practical and useful perspective on how to carry out the activities included in the Action Plan, and others related to strengthening the collaboration between universities, research/technology centres and SMEs in the Catalan agri-food sector.

Finally, the Subdirector General of Agri-Food Inspection and Control, Ms Glòria Cugat, offered some brief conclusions regarding the day, once again thanking the participants attending the meeting for their presence and collaboration.

The second phase of the project, which will begin on 1 August and last for one year, will involve the implementation and supervision of this Action Plan. By carrying out the different actions set out, it will be possible to try to achieve the main objective of the project: "Increasing the competitiveness of Catalan agri-food SMEs, highlighting the authenticity and quality of their processes and products and combating food fraud."

Once again, we have valued these expert committee meetings very positively, as their proactive participation and strong application to the sector gives us the necessary tools to lead the project in a direction where all the actors in the Catalan agri-food chain can find answers, can collaborate in a multidisciplinary way, and achieve the objectives within the areas of the project.