Some 50 key stakeholders within the agricultural sector are benefitting from a training initiative, as part of Government’s ongoing effort to ensure compliance with international food safety standards.
The five-day course in good agricultural practices is being undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), through funding from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF). It is being conducted by the United States-based Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN).
The aim is to bring farmers, food producers and exporters up to speed on food safety requirements, as required by the authorities in the export markets, and improve the competencies of Ministry and RADA officers.
Speaking at the opening ceremony on Monday, February 18, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke, said the course is expected to improve the participants’ proficiency, while ensuring capacity building and institutional strengthening.
He said that the broad participation, which include members of the Food Storage and Prevention of Infestation Division, Bureau of Standards, Ministry of Health, Pesticides Control Authority (PCA), and the Scientific Research Council (SRC), “augers well for Jamaica, as we seek to improve our food management systems” and comply with the United States Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).
The FSMA aims to ensure that the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it.
Minister Clarke argued that non-compliance has significant implications for Jamaica as the US represents one of the country’s major markets.
“It is to be noted that in 2011, Jamaica’s exports of agricultural products to the US totalled 36 million kilograms at a value of $76 million and every effort must be made to avert any fallout in the agricultural sector and by extension, the national economy,” he stated.
Mr. Clarke said the training and technical assistance provided will also “substantially buttress” the work of the island’s Food Safety Modernisation Act Committee, which was established in 2011.
The Committee develops strategies that will assist farmers and fresh produce exporters comply with the FSMA, and to ensure continued access of Jamaica’s foods to US markets.
The Minister also reiterated the Government’s commitment to providing safe and nutritious food to consumers, both locally and internationally.
Managing Director of JSIF, Scarlette Gillings, said the new practices, when disseminated and implemented, should improve the safety of fresh produce being exported to the US as well as consumed in Jamaica.
“Training will also redound to our ability to earn, as under the new FSMA Act, producers who are not compliant on the matter of food safety; will be prohibited from exporting. All exporters must demonstrate that their food is safe, therefore, traceability from farm to fork is very important and this means knowing and adhering to good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices,” she stated.
The training will run from February 18 to 22. It falls under JSIF’s Rural Economic Development Initiative (REDI) project, funded by the World Bank, which seeks to assist small groups in obtaining knowledge of market needs, market demand and also improve product quality and production techniques.