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The Bureau of Standards of Jamaica (BSJ) and the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) yesterday (October 12), officially launched the National Programme for the Certification of Agricultural Produce in Jamaica.
The National Certification Programme will now see local produce being issued with a Quality Seal of Approval as proof that such produce have met the standards set by the BSJ and are safe for use.
Speaking at the launch, at Eden Gardens on Lady Musgrave Road, Executive Director of the BSJ, Dr.Omer Thomas said it was important for Jamaica to set standards for its local and international markets, so that its produce could compete effectively in a globalized environment.
Dr. Thomas commented that, “it must be clearly demonstrated that our goods and services are produced in a manner that demonstrates adherence. to standard,” further noting that, “a National Programme for the Certification of Agricultural Produce is a perfect prescription for the Agricultural Sector. and Jamaica must step up to the wicket and meet the demands created by globalization”.
He also emphasized that it was critical for Jamaica to establish its own standards locally, so that it will be easier to monitor agricultural imports that come into the island. Dr. Thomas stressed that the same standards that would be used to govern agricultural produce locally would also be used to govern imports, and in that regard, imports that did not meet Jamaica’s standards would not be allowed into the country.
The Executive Director added that it was critical for the country to prepare itself for the implications of the Free Trade Areas of the Americas, as well as the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) by having quality agricultural produce that would be able to withstand the inevitable high level of competition in those trading arenas.
The pilot phase of the National Certification Programme will be conducted in five parishes and will target 17 farmers. The parishes included in the first phase are St. Thomas, St. Andrew, St. Elizabeth, St. Catherine, St. Elizabeth and St. Ann.
The programme will also focus on seven crops in the first phase, which comprise escallion, thyme, carrots, tomatoes, ginger, sweet pepper and hot pepper. According to President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Senator Norman Grant, the programme is being undertaken “to create a sense of consumer confidence in our farmers’ produce.” He added that, “the certification of agricultural product through the establishment of specific, clear, and acceptable standards is another level in modernizing a new and efficient agricultural sector.”
The crops, Senator Grant explained, were carefully selected, and were based on local and international demand for the various produce. The programme will eventually expand to include other parishes, farmers and crops. The Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology has already committed $2 million to the development of the certification programme that will be implemented through the JAS in collaboration with other stakeholders in the agricultural sector.
The National Certification Programme was developed to enable Jamaica to compete globally in the trade of agricultural produce. The programme was designed to ensure that farmers apply the necessary standards and practice safety regulations in cultivating crops.
The selected farmers have already received training in critical areas relevant for the standardization process. These areas of training include site selection, land preparation, crop care, and documentation or record keeping. The third training session to be undertaken at the Bureau of Standards, will incorporate harvesting and post harvesting methodologies.