EU, IICA sign deal to strengthen Caribbean food standards

Last Updated on Saturday, 26 December 2015, 21:00 by GxMedia

IICA Director-General Victor Villalobos (L) and EU Ambassador Robert Kopecky signed the agreement at a cocktail reception.

The European Union (EU) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) have signed an agreement which will see the regional bloc providing some 11.7 million euros to boost Caribbean food access to the EU markets.

The agreement was signed Wednesday night as the Caribbean Week of Agriculture activities continued in Georgetown, Guyana.

Head of the EU Delegation Guyana Robert Kopecky noted that they had signed another agreement with IICA earlier in the year but said Wednesday’s had a special importance for the region.

“This one is something very important because I personally translate it into particular language like opening the doors to markets like the European one, still the biggest one in the world. New ones, emerging ones, basically all require certain phyto-sanitary and sanitary standards.

Nobody doubts the quality and the organic nature of the products of the Caribbean but some bureaucratic procedures from the point of view of consumer protection simply aren’t there,” Kopecky stated.

He said the objective of the agreement was to ensure the relevant organisations got the practical know how and expertise to ensure the desired standards were reached and maintained.

“There will be training seminars, capacity building throughout the member states of CARICOM to get this capacity to be able to comply with European markets.”

The EU and IICA in March signed an 8.6-million-euro agreement to strengthen incentives, policies and programmes for small farmers, and to improve food security at the regional, national, and local levels by increasing the production and productivity of selected agricultural products. Another aim was to enhance the capacity of regional agricultural institutions.

According to the EU envoy, he would be happy if the project could start bearing fruit within the next six months or so.

IICA Director General Victor Villalobos said the implementation of the two projects would improve sanitary and phyto-sanitary issues in the Caribbean and that they would be working with CARICOM and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute.

The grants were provided under the 10th European Development Fund, a cycle of developmental aid for African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.