Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, officially opened the Ministry’s Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) Unit, following a brief ceremony in the conference room of the Veterinary Services Division in Kingston on Tuesday (January 12).
Part of the Ministry’s Plant Quarantine/Produce Inspection Branch, the Unit is charged with the responsibility of curtailing the infestation of certain pests in Jamaica, through investigation and evaluation and the provision of technical information. The Unit also provides technical market access information to potential trading partners, in an effort to open foreign markets to Jamaica’s exporters.
Pest Risk Analysis is conducted to protect the agricultural sector from damage that can be caused by harmful pests brought into Jamaica with imported goods.
Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dr. Marc Panton said that the Unit has been in operation for a few months and has initiated some 17 pest risk analyses, including items Jamaica wishes to export to the United States, such as sweet potatoes and mangoes. They have also conducted market access surveys which, basically, provide technical information necessary for exporters to access foreign markets.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Christopher Tufton, examining a poster about the Pink Mealy Bug, during a tour of the Ministry’s newly opened Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) Unit following a brief ceremony at the Veterinary Services Division in Kingston on Tuesday(January 12).
“They have played a role also in protecting our local industry, such as our citrus industry, by participating in the detection and the delimiting surveys for the citrus greening disease,” Dr. Panton added.
He pointed out that the Unit works with agencies, such as the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), to ensure that trade is facilitated. This undertaking includes the compilation of a national pest list, which other countries that Jamaica intends to trade with will use to conduct their pest risk analyses.
Dr. Tufton said the Unit aims to protect consumers and is not intended to restrict commerce or trade.
He said that it is intended to provide a level of protection at the level of the consuming public, in terms of what they eat (and) what they are exposed to, and entire sectors within the agricultural sector, because of the risk from the exposure to foreign pests.
He noted that, in analysing global developments and the extent to which factors such as diseases, pests and contaminants of one form or another have moved from one location to the next, this was, more often than not, attributable to a lack of proper monitoring of the trade environment.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Christopher Tufton (left), speaking with Manager of the Ministry’s newly opened Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) Unit, Juliet Goldsmith(right), while Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Donovan Stanberry(third left) and the Ministry’s Chief Plant Quarantine/Produce Inspector, Sheila Harvey (second left), look on. The Minister officially opened the Unit following a brief ceremony at the Veterinary Services Division in Kingston on Tuesday(January 12).
The Minister also pointed out that, in order for Jamaica to engage in trade, particularly of food items, as well as for nations to trade with the country, systems have to be implemented to ensure that foods consumed meet certain basic standards.
He expressed the hope that the establishment of the Unit will help the country to focus on the need to establish, in Jamaica, standards that are internationally acceptable in order to facilitate greater expansion in external trade with other market places around the world.
“That’s part of the sustainability that we are looking for in terms of our food production thrust,” Dr. Tufton stated.
He admitted that while the Government is committed to the ‘eating what you grow and growing what you eat’ mantra, Jamaica is unlikely to be able to produce all the foods required by the population. Hence, there is always going to be interdependence on other producers around the world, which highlights the need for the Unit.
Jamaica is obligated under the WTO agreement to provide scientific reasons for restricting international trade of plant/plant produce.