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Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister, Hon. Anthony Hylton, said that several initiatives are being pursued to enhance the operational standards of local exporters and ensure the safety of products exported to the United States (US).

These initiatives, the Minister said, include a cost-sharing programme of up to 25 per cent of inspection fees; training and technical assistance; and gap analyses and audits by technical experts from various stakeholder agencies to assess Jamaica’s state of readiness to meet the provisions of the Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA).

Addressing the Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA) breakfast forum at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston on Tuesday (February 28), Mr. Hylton said the legislation, implemented by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011, has “significant implications” for Jamaican exporters of food and other products to the US market.

This, he said, as all entities producing, handling and transporting, or importing, exporting and distributing food, “now have to meet heightened food safety standards”.

Mr. Hylton informed that the Ministry has collaborated with the EX-IM Bank; Ministry of Health; Veterinary Services Division; Plant Quarantine Division; Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ); Scientific Research Council (SRC); Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division (FSPID); Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC); and JAMPRO, to develop and implement specific initiatives.

Other measures, he said, include: steps by the BSJ to train inspectors in the requisite food management systems and risk management skills to support local processors; a mentorship programme; and engaging Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP)-compliant Jamaican companies to work closely with other entities to guide this level.

In addition, JAMPRO is assisting several companies to prepare applications to the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) to access funding to undertake gap audits and implement upgrading plans to meet FDA requirements.

“As some of you would be aware, an FDA expert conducted sensitization sessions on the FSMA legislation and its impact on food products to be imported to the U.S. JAMPRO continues to work closely with exporters in understanding the requirements of the FSMA and in guiding their preparations to meet the required standards. The broader strategy envisions development of the capacity of local companies and enhancing the overall competitiveness of select value chains and industry clusters to take advantage of linkages, (and) opportunities,” Mr. Hylton.

The Industry Minister spoke on the theme: ‘Export Competitiveness – An Imperative for Jamaica’s Economic Development’.

 

By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter