Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, has lauded the work of the Food Safety Modernization Act Committee (FSMA), noting that the body has had a number of significant accomplishments since its establishment in October last year.
The committee was implemented in an effort to develop a strategy aimed at improving the capacity and capability of farmers and fresh produce exporters in becoming compliant with the United States FSMA and to ensure continued access of Jamaica’s foods to US markets.
Speaking at a press briefing at the Ministry’s Hope Gardens offices on Wednesday (Sept. 12), Mr. Clarke noted that through the hard work of committee members, several Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) officers in 13 parishes have been trained in the FSMA guidelines, while Plant Quarantine/Produce Branch Inspectors have been instructed in post harvest operations and procedures.
The committee has also conducted training for farmers’ groups in Walkerswood, St. Ann, St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland and St. Mary, and for members of the greenhouse association.
Additionally, through the work of the committee, three exporters received training in post-harvest fungicide treatment, personal hygiene and record keeping prior to Food Drug Administration (FDA) inspection in February of this year.
Minister Clarke said that none of the exporters were issued with a FDA-483 (Inspectional Observation Form), used to document and communicate concerns discovered during these inspections,“indicating that they had passed the inspection."
The Agriculture Minister also informed that in response to the detention of yam shipments due to pesticide levels exceeding allowable limits, a total of 18 yam exporters were sensitised regarding the FSMA and trained in post-harvest fungicide treatment procedures. Consequently, the number of yam detentions has since decreased, he stated.
The FSMA, being implemented by the US Food and Drug Administration(FDA), was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure that the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.
Mr. Clarke noted that compliance with the FSMA has significant implications for Jamaica as the United States represents one of the country’s major markets. In 2010, Jamaica’s exports of yam, hot pepper, ackee and callaloo to the US amounted to $2 billion (approximately US$22.4 million).
"Every effort must be made to prevent any fall out in the agricultural sector and by extension, the national economy," the Minister stated.