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Non-tariff barriers may dominate COTED meeting – Dr. Ramsammy

Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy

Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy says he believes the non-tariff barriers to trade in the Caribbean will dominate Friday’s meeting of CARICOM’s ministerial Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

COTED will be meeting to consider the recommendations from the week-long Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) held in Guyana.

“There can be absolutely no doubt that meeting the non-tariff barriers conditions in the Caribbean and abroad is affecting our various countries and my focus since I became Minister of Agriculture has been the removal of non-tariff barriers in the Caribbean.

“We don’t have any moral right to be arguing with countries outside of CARICOM on non-tariff barriers if we are practising that ourselves,” he stated.

The primary blocks occur on laboratory, phyto-sanitary and sanitary standards on food and fauna. The region is set to benefit from an 11.7 million euro to boost those standards with Wednesday’s signing of an agreement to that effect between the EU and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.

Meanwhile, Dr. Ramsammy said the draft Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is also on COTED’s agenda after having been endorsed by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism during CWA.

Should the Policy find favour at that level and found to be in order legally it will go to the CARICOM Heads for their consideration and approval.

The CFP will afford CARICOM Member States the opportunity for structured collaboration and cooperation in the conservation, management and use of their living marine and aquatic resources, and will allow for an orderly and predictable approach to the terms for entry by Third States in the Common Fisheries Zone.

It would also facilitate sub-regional arrangements for the management of fishing stocks of interest to them, and which are currently not subject to any management regime.

Also up for consideration is a roadmap for the coconut industry covering the next five years.

“There is also a strategy for dealing with pests particularly as they deal with coconut, cash crops et cetera. There is also an entrepreneurial programme for youths that is being recommended,” he added.

The minister also disclosed that they had developed the potential to sell sweet potatoes to the European market with the demand being larger than the entire Caribbean could possibly meet.

“Our challenge now is how to grow sweet potato to meet the local demand and at the same time be able to export sweet potato.”

Dr. Ramsammy said there were other considerations since the variety the Europeans prefer was not grown in large quantities in the Caribbean and would entail putting another type of agricultural practice in place.

“The one thing Guyana is looking to conclude at this CWA is putting in all the elements to develop a formal sweet potato industry in Guyana both for fresh sweet potato and packaged sweet potato to enter the European market.”

The official engagements of the CWA end on Friday.