JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, emphasised today the importance of plant health to the agricultural sector, and the Jamaican economy.
Speaking at the launch of the Jamaica Plant Health Surveillance and Pest Response Systems (PHS&PRS), at the Eden Gardens Resort in Kingston, Minister Clarke said the Ministry had undertaken the initiative “in recognition of the importance of plant health and food safety in the supply chain from farm to table”.
He lauded the efforts of the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP), for bringing the project to fruition and meeting international requirements. “Through yet another intervention of the ASSP, in the amount of $3.1 million, we are launching the PHS&PRS, which is compatible with international standards,” the Minister added.
The PHS&PRS is an initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture, set up to implement a modern system for pro-active surveillance of pest and disease incidence in the island by instituting a collaborative early warning system for identifying and responding to threats or actual incursions of dangerous plant pests, in either a routine or emergency mode.
Minister Clarke noted that the initiative was just the latest of several that the Ministry had undertaken over the years in response to the absence of a national surveillance system, and the increasing international scrutiny of agricultural produce.
Among the tasks of the PHS&PRS will be to, co-ordinate the activities among the relevant agencies involved in plant health and surveillance, including the Ministries of Commerce, Science and Technology; Agriculture, and Health; identify threats to plant health; and facilitate information sharing on sampling, forecasting, pest identification, pest risk analyses, crop loss assessment, and the training of end-users.
The Minister said with the system in place, the Ministry “will be able to maximize the use of limited resources, eliminate overlapping and unite efforts around the common goal of protecting and maintaining plant health”.
Mr. Clarke explained that with the issue under the scrutiny of regulators at the international level, as well as local consumers, the Ministry was in the process of developing a policy framework for the institutionalisation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
“This policy framework will be presented to stakeholders in March and will complement all previous efforts to ensure food safety and plant health at the national level,” he added.
The PHS&PRS will be maintained and made accessible through a computer database linking the PHS&PRS response functions of the Plant Quarantine/Produce Inspection (PQ/PI) and Research Development Divisions as well as the Ministry’s extension service provider, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).Dr. Winston Small, the Barbadian plant health consultant for the project, thanked the Ministry and project personnel for their support.
He noted that the initiative had placed Jamaica as the frontrunner in plant health systems. “The project is an effort to ensure that Jamaica can prevent disasters before they occur and enable the country to be the regional leader in plant health systems,” he said.