(de Ware Tijd) THE HAGUE – The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) has tightened controls at importers of fruit and vegetables from Suriname because spot-checks carried out in 2010 and 2011 show that products from Suriname and many other countries contain too many residues and pesticides that carry a health risk.
From the 162 samples taken of Surinamese products 11.7% contained levels of pesticide residue higher that the legal limit. Amar Singh, a major supplier of Surinamese vegetables to the Dutch market, had already expressed his concerns about this issue to dWT late last year. He predicted difficult times for Surinamese produce in the European Union (EU), as these would contain too many residues of pesticides.
The Surinamese government has known about the stricter EU requirements with regard to produce exports from Suriname for years. In separate interviews, agricultural entrepreneur Max Ghazi and legislator Henk Ramnandanlal of the permanent committee for Agriculture (LVV) claim they have seen this coming. LVV Minister Hendrik Setrowidjojo is currently abroad and could not be reached for comment. “And now Suriname is considered a risk country, which means that we in Suriname only have ourselves to blame,” Ramnandanlal says.
Ghazi (who used to export vegetables from Suriname but now grows vegetables in the Netherlands) says he had pointed both the former and incumbent Administrations to this problem, and even offered expertise from the Netherlands so the Surinamese farmers and government could take measures themselves to bring down the level of residues to the legal limit. Ramnandanlal says the cause should be determined, adding, “I’m not saying that we didn’t do anything, but it’s clear we haven’t been able to safeguard our fruit and vegetable exports to the Netherlands.”
The use of certain pesticides has been banned in Suriname without any sufficient alternative substances or methods having been introduced. Suriname had a food safety lab, but it burned down, unfortunately. “Eighteen months have passed since then, but the new food safety lab is not finished yet. This would not have happened with good management and a forward-looking policy and if we had set priorities if we were aware of these problems,” Ramnandanlal says.