Regional Agriculture Ministries Get Help To Improve Quarantine Services


A three-day workshop aimed at strengthening the quarantine capabilities of the ministries of agriculture in the region, opened on Tuesday, October 21 at the Wexford Court Hotel in Montego Bay.
The workshop, funded by the European Union (EU) through the ‘Strengthening Agricultural Quarantine Services (SAQS) in the Caribbean’ project of the Lome Convention, is intended to deal specifically with the introduction of cost recovery and user fee mechanisms for the provision of selected quarantine services, and forms part of a larger programme aimed at strengthening the technical capacities in agricultural, health and food safety systems in CARIFORUM countries.
Representatives from Jamaica, Dominica, Haiti, Suriname and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are in attendance.
Pierre Charles, Prime Minister of Dominica and Co-ordinator of the project, said the workshop should improve the ability of countries to comply with the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary agreement, by assisting them to more effectively manage agricultural health and food safety services. He said the project activity involved the research and development of approaches to implementing cost recovery regimes for agricultural quarantine services in the relevant countries.
He lamented that the pace of reform in this strategically important area of agriculture was too slow, adding that countries of the region needed to become more proactive to avoid negative social consequences.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, in declaring the workshop officially open, stated that the Government had long implemented measures to ensure the safety of agricultural imports and exports, pointing to the establishment of the Plant Quarantine and Produce Inspection Unit, as well as the Veterinary Division. “The Plant Quarantine Unit is mandated to ensure that only the highest quality, pest free produce is imported into, or exported from the island, and is fully equipped to provide the services of issuing import permits and certifying and monitoring packing houses used to prepared goods for export”, he stated.
He noted however, that while earnings from the Veterinary Division amounted to $9.9 million for 2003/04 and the Plant Quarantine Unit collected $18 million, the earnings were not enough to meet the present cost of operating the facilities. He emphasised that the Government was cognisant of the fact that there was room for improving the system of cost recovery, and was therefore putting the appropriate legal framework in place to allow for improvements.

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