Agriculture stakeholders on Monday met to identify food safety and fisheries needs for the development of a country action plan for an 11.7M Euro European Union-funded regional project that facilitates Cariforum states improved access to international markets. A release from the Government Informa-tion Agency (GINA) said that the consultation opened by George Jarvis, Permanent Secretary, Min-istry of Agriculture, at Cara Lodge aimed at creating and strengthening the regional and national sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures under the project.
The project, ‘Support to the Caribbean Forum of ACP States in the implementation of commitments undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA); Sani-tary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures,’ is expected to be implemented in 42 months. George Jarvis, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, opened the local consultation at Cara Lodge. Also in attendance were Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agricul-ture’s (IICA) Representa-tive in Guyana Wilmot Garnet, Programme Man-ager, Agriculture and Industry at the Caribbean Community (Caricom), Nisa Surujbally and Manager, Dr Robert Ahern, Agricultural Health and Food Safety Pro-gramme, IICA and June Masters, Statistics and Information Analyst, Car-ibbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).
According to Jarvis, Guyana welcomed the project as it seeks to “strengthen our legislation and provide the necessary and important capacity improvement to our present planting and animal system that will lead us to meet international standards.” He noted that the project will also provide “the kind of linkages between Caricom member states and other extra regional trading partners and will help us to understand and communicate easily with each other.”
The Permanent Secretary cited some of the measures that the ministry has taken to bring the country in compliance with the World Trade Organisa-tion (WTO) SPS agreement. He said that Guyana has passed the new Plant Protection Act 2011, which will see draft plant regulations that will soon be enforced. Guyana is also implementing other guidelines and measures that are consistent with those issued by the International Plant Protection Conven-tion (IPPC) and other international regulations. Jarvis also pointed out that the ministry’s implementation of its Agriculture Diversi-fication Project (ADP) had seen improvement and enhancement in plant and health service, and an increase in pest and dis-ease monitoring activity, through the hiring and training of new staff.
He also said that the ministry will soon complete the construction of its Animal Health laboratory which should provide the vital service of reassuring Guyana’s trading partners that its products are safe for consumption.
“Guyana is prepared to collaborate and to make this project a success as we see it as very beneficial in providing the technical and financial assistance that not only Guyana, but many Caribbean countries require to enhance our SPS systems to better protect our agriculture resources and facilitate international trade,” he said.
Jarvis also urged that more of the project funds should be spent on implementation rather than on administration.
GINA said that the project is one of the three components of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) programme. The components are legislation, protocol, measures in the area of AHFS and fisheries for national and regional SPS regime; national and regional coordination mechanism in the support of the SPS regime and national and regional regulatory and industry capacity to meet the SPS requirement of international trade.
IICA is the designated implementing agency for the project that is being done in collaboration with the Caricom Secretariat, CRFM and the SPS committee of the Dominican Republic (CNMSF).
During the session, Masters urged that in their discussion on fisheries in Guyana that the stakeholders include issues such as land site facilities, fisheries legislation, quality and market expansion. She said these can be addressed through the project and thus “upping the fishery game in Guyana, making sure that the fish product from Guyana would be, without question of the highest quality.”
According to the release, Surujbally noted that though the Caribbean countries have all signed EDFs with the European Union, they have not been able to fully take advantage of the opportunities created by this mechanism. She explained that SPS has been the primary issue limiting countries’ ability to export certified food, especially as it relates to other crops, livestock and fish to the developed world, and even to countries in the Caribbean.
She said therefore, the onus is on all the stakeholders to deliver the outcomes of the project and set the stage for increased intra and interregional trade, thereby securing the livelihood of Caribbean farmers.