`Free and easy’ entry of unauthorised foods undermining local manufacturers

-Food and Drugs Director

With the Government Analyst Food & Drug Department (GAFDD) now tasked with the weighty responsibility of effectively closing the door on the ‘dumping’ of food and drugs in the country that do not qualify for entry under the existing regulations, its Director Marlan Cole has told the Stabroek Business that unless systems are put in place to end the practice, it will, in the longer term, affect Guyana in more ways than one.

Asserting that it is “not by accident” that the country’s ports of entry are, these days, besieged by “huge volumes of imports that do not qualify for entry under the existing rules and regulations,” Cole said that Guyana, “unfortunately,” appears to be one of the countries targeted for this practice. He explained that the trend was not accidental and that it has to do with questionable international business practices that allow for the deliberate “dumping” of food and drugs that might either pose health risks or might not qualify for importation under the rules. “Unfortunately, it’s a way of doing business, not, perhaps an acceptable way, but a way of doing business.”

And according to Cole, part of the problem that Guyana faces has to do with the way in which business is conducted here. “Unlike in some other countries where there may be a limited number of importers dealing with particular types of imports, the numbers, in the case of Guyana, tend to be considerably more, in the instances of food and drugs.” He said that this, coupled with “underequipped oversight institutions and fragile regulatory systems” meant that the country had become vulnerable to “having many of these questionable goods get into the country.” Cole added that the fact of the country’s weak borders and what could possibly be links with criminal activity made it easier to have questionable consignments enter Guyana.

Cole conceded that in recent years, and particularly in recent months, the GAFDD had become particularly preoccupied with trying to keep questionable imports at bay. He conceded that there had been an increase in the number of instances where the department has had to take a tough and determined line in order to protect consumers and ensure that the rules are upheld though he conceded that “from time to time a number of issues arise that make the job more difficult.”

And according to the GAFDD Head while the focus of attention was on the health and safety risks associated with a lack of vigilance in monitoring imports there was also “an equally great concern over the impact of a free and easy importation system” on the country’s agro-processing and manufacturing sectors. “If we move to a situation where anyone can locate and import any item of processed food into Guyana in those large quantities what is to happen to our agro processing and our manufacturing sectors. What we are doing is removing the opportunities that rightly belong to our manufacturers and agro processors,” Cole said.

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