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Minister of Agriculture Dr. Christopher Tufton, has warned of strong action to be taken against individuals who breach the regulations governing the importation of foods.
He said that this has become necessary, because of the numerous cases of discrepancy in the importation process reported by the Customs Department.
“To those who have been more ‘flexible’ with the rules in the past, I think it is important that that practice be discontinued because, if you are caught, the Government is not going to hesitate from taking the appropriate action. If it means naming and shaming, it will be done. If it means dumping, it will be done, because the country depends on proper procedures, in order to ensure that all economic activities can co-exist. The farmers of Jamaica deserve a break,” he said.
Dr. Tufton was speaking at a media briefing at the Eden Gardens complex, Kingston, on Thursday (March 26), to announce the appointment of 60 additional Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) extension officers, to assist the country’s farmers.
He said that the Ministry, in collaboration with the Customs Department, had unearthed several cases of items being imported without proper documentation and other attendant procedures.
“We have come upon a number of cases of produce being imported without proper declaration, non-declaration, under-invoicing. The law speaks to that and we will follow through, to the fullest extent, in implementing the law,” he warned.
He said that the Ministry will be collaborating with stakeholders and agencies, such as the Customs Department and the Ministry of Health and Environment, to “tighten up, where we must”.
This was necessary to ensure that the end users of food imports are not exposed to, or consume, items that are likely to be at risk because of a lack of information on their origins. The thrust is also intended to protect the farmers, many of whom are placed at a disadvantage, in terms of competitiveness in the marketplace, from imports falling beneath the radar of standard customs procedures.
“To put it very simply to those importers of food, whether it is fresh produce or processed foods, we are going to be engaging you in constructive dialogue to do what is right and appropriate and follow the rules that are clearly established and articulated, ” the Minister declared.
He lamented that one of the challenges which have faced Jamaica for many years is that, based on the manner in which some imports are undertaken, farmers have not been allowed an opportunity to compete.
Dr. Tufton noted that too many “interests” have used the preferential arrangements of the trade policy, or “other convenient arrangements,” to import produce that place local farmers at a disadvantage and marginalise their potential to compete in the marketplace.

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