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Guyana hopes to benefit from stronger sanitary measures for food exports

Consultation at Cara Lodge on the European Union’s Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) project for the region

Departmental heads along with other stakeholders in the local agriculture sector on Monday met to offer input on the implementation of a European Union funded €11.7M project aimed  at creating and strengthening the regional and national sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures.

The project, ‘Support to the Caribbean Forum of ACP States in the Implementation of Commitments Undertaken Under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA); Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) measures’, is expected to run for 42 months. It is aimed at facilitating CARIFORUM states improved access to international market by helping them to better develop their own regionally harmonised SPS measures.

Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture George Jarvis opened the local consultation at Cara Lodge,  which is aimed at determining the local priority agricultural health and food safety and fisheries needs for the development of a country action plan for addressing these under the SPS project.

Also in attendance were Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture’s (IICA) Representative in Guyana Wilmot Garnet, Statistic and Information Analyst, Programme Manager, Agriculture and Industry at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Nisa Surujbally and Manager, ICCA, Agricultural Health and Food Safety Programme, Dr. Robert Ahern and  Mrs. June Masters, Statistics & Information Analyst, Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) .

Jarvis said that Guyana welcomes this 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 as well, 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 pointed to some of the measures that have been introduced by the ministry towards addressing the issue of SPS in Guyana, and to bring the country in compliance with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) SPS agreement.

Guyana has passed the new Plant Protection Act 2011, which will see draft plant regulations that will soon be enforced, the PS pointed out. Guyana is also implementing other guidelines and measures that are consistent with those issued by the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and other international regulations, he said. The ministry’s implementation of its Agriculture Diversification Project (ADP) has seen improvement and enhancement in plant and health service, and an increase in pest and disease monitoring activity, through the hiring and training of new staff.

The ministry is soon to 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 proper implementation of the project so that better rewards could be reaped. He urged that much of the project money be on implementation rather than on administration.

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.

ICCA 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 Mrs Master urged that in their discussion, with regards to fisheries in Guyana that the stakeholders look at the SPS issues such as land site facilities, fisheries legislation, and quality and market expansion. She said these can be addressed in some way through proper use of the project and thus “upping the fishery game in Guyana and making sure that the fish product from Guyana would be, without question of the highest quality”.

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.