KINGSTON — The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has spent approximately $15 million to acquire state-of-the-art equipment and to renovate the country's laboratory facilities and infrastructure, Portfolio Minister, Hon. Robert Montague, has informed.
This, he says, is to ensure the quality and safety of Jamaica's agricultural products, so as to enhance access to markets, particularly overseas.
Speaking at a food safety workshop for food industry regulatory agencies and stakeholders at the Mona Visitors' Lodge, University of the West Indies (UWI), last week, Mr. Montague informed that the expenditure forms part of continuing efforts, led by the Veterinary Services Division, towards securing International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 17025 lab accreditation.
This accreditation is aninternational recognition process that assures global acceptance of Laboratory Accreditation Bureau (LAB) accredited laboratories test reports and calibration certificates for the purposes of free trade and regulatory acceptance.
In this regard, Mr. Montague said the Ministry is committed to collaborating with various stakeholders, especially within the private sector, to implement systems and measures that will safeguard Jamaica's food stock.
He disclosed that the Ministry, through the Veterinary Services Division, has worked with the private sector to gain market access for aquaculture products, such as conch and honey in the European Union (EU) markets, among others.
The Minister also commended the EU and other entities, such as the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), for their "continued support" to Jamaica’s efforts at building capacity and other technical inputs. He also praised local producers and processors for “their dedication demonstrated in ensuring food security and food safety."
"Indeed, as we move to protect our food safety chain in Jamaica, let the whole world know that this government believes in fair trade and free trade, but we also believe in safe trade. The Jamaican manufacturer has to submit himself and his operations to meet the high public health standards internationally, to meet the standards of the Factories Act, and to meet the standards of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ),” Mr. Montague said.
"We are also moving in our food safety policy, simply to say to persons bringing food into Jamaica, that they must also meet the Jamaican standards," he added.
The two-day workshop was hosted by the Ministry’s Veterinary Services Division under the theme: 'The Role of Veterinary Services in Food Safety – The Way Forward'.
Over 20 participants in the food industry attended the forum, which facilitated interactive discussions between the Division, other regulatory agencies, and sector stakeholders engaged in providing safe animal products.
The forum was aimed at increasing awareness of the role and functionality of veterinary services in food safety, based on international standards, as well as to examine options with alternatives in achieving required food safety standards.
By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter