By Ivan Cairo
GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands – A trade dispute to allow Surinamese duck meat to enter the market in Trinidad and Tobago could be resolved as soon as the Trinidad government amend its Animal Act, a Trinidad official told the Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) here on Friday.
At the conclusion of its meeting at the end of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016, COTED-chair and agriculture minister of Dominica, Johnson Drigo, said that since legislative procedures could take some time Trinidad could not offer a time line when the matter would be resolved definitely.
Drigo noted that the matter was discussed by the ministers and that “there was consensus on the undertakings given by both parties to work the situation out”.
Since December 2015 Port-of-Spain is preventing the importation from the Surinamese duck farm De Doksenclub to Trinidad. Initially Trinidad raised concerns that the processed at the duck facilities were not in conformity with international food safety measures. Once these issues were addressed to the satisfaction of the Trinidad veterinary authorities Suriname were informed that the legislation need to be amended to allow for Suriname to be included on the schedule of countries which are allowed to export duck meat to Trinidad before De Doksenclub could receive an import license.
When subsequent bilateral discussions to resolve the dispute failed Suriname’s agriculture minister Soeresh Algoe dropped the matter on the COTED table in April this year. Shortly thereafter on behalf of the Trinidadian authorities the Caribbean Health and Food Safety Authority (CAHFSA) conducted a re-inspection of the facilities of De Doksenclub. “In general, from observations and explanations provided by the management of the facility and the Competent Authority of Suriname it can be reasonably stated that the facility has made every effort to comply with and remedy where necessary the requirements listed as non-conformances by Trinidad and Tobago”, the CAHFSA-team which conducted the inspections said in its report.
According to Chief Veterinary Officer of Trinidad, David Kangaloo, the two countries “are close to resolving the issues”. “There is a draft cabinet note that has been prepared that will be taken to parliament. Once that is accepted and approved Suriname will have to be placed on the schedule to allow the legal imports of duck meat from Suriname”, the official said. He added, that he was not able to give a time line “because the legislative process takes a while”.