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Edible insect industry group set up to support Southeast Asia

By Massimo Reverberi , 03-Jan-2017

© iStock
© iStock

In the last few years, dozens of edible insect start-ups have popped up in western countries to supply a new wave of interest in bugs as food. This market is now in need of regulation, promotion and support.

This this is the case might might be one reason for the growing number of industry associations are being formed—including one I recently co-founded with some other companies in the region. 

The first representative body for manufacturers of insects for food was created by Robert Nathan Allen in 2013 as Little Herds in America. Then came the North America Edible Insect Coalition (NAEIC), formed by start-ups like Exo, Entomo Farms and Chapul. 

In Europe, IPIFF, strategically located in Brussels, represents small- and medium-sized companies from the edible insect market, as well as from the feed sector. Lobbying the EU parliament on insects is obviously one of their priorities. 

There is also BiiF in Belgium, FFPIDI in France and Switzerland’s GRIMIAM, which successfully campaigned to have the Swiss parliament approve a law on edible insects, which passed in December. 

As for Southeast Asia, in August 2016, a dozen regional insect business owners, myself included, met in Bangkok to create AFFIA, the Asean Food and Feed Insects Association. 

It sets out to represent Southeast Asian insect companies, but is also open to businesses in other Asia-Pacific countries through external membership. In coming years the association plans to spread the idea that insects are a viable solution to food shortages, both directly as human food, and indirectly as animal feed. 

Among its founders are brands including Smile Bull Marketing and my own Bugsolutely, each of Thailand, as well as Malaysia’s Entofood, Vietnam’s Entobel and Eawag of Indonesia. 

AFFIA plans to communicate the advantages of edible insects, and also try to create solid ground for the development of the industry; for example, starting a conversation with public agencies. 

The Southeast Asian tradition of farming and eating insects goes way back in time, but is not codified in legislation, nor even in best practices. There is still no GAP manual for farming crickets, nor an HS code for insects within the World Custom Organisation. The FAO’s Codex Alimentarius does not mention bugs as food, although a few years ago Laos proposed introducing new standards for them. 

Last but not least, AFFIA affirms that we will create a knowledge base for our members. This is to fill an existing gap in terms of information, not least because there is little publicly available information on how to farm, process and export insects. 

The membership fees has been set at a symbolic US$50 and will be used to support small processors and farmers, which form the majority of the sector.

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