State Minister for Industry, Investment, and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, has underscored the need for local food processors to maintain high standards in their operations, in order to ensure consumer safety, and enhance Jamaica’s competitive edge in the global marketplace.
“The maintenance of high standards, with respect to (the) quality (of food) and consumer safety and protection, is not confined to our quest for markets and the satisfaction of the needs of foreign consumers. Maintenance of standards is just as important for our domestic consumers; and what is true for our exports must be of equal importance to the Jamaican consumer,” the Minister emphasized while addressing the opening ceremony for the 26th Session of the Codex Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables, at the Hilton Rose Hall Hotel in Montego Bay, on Monday (Oct. 15).
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams pointed to recognition of the common marketplace which currently obtains consequent on globalization, and in which “we must all compete and adhere to international best practices”.
“Our major trading partners have set the benchmarks, and if we fail to put our house in order, windows of opportunity will be closed to us. This was forcibly emphasized last year with the introduction of the United States’ Food and Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This has shifted the focus from responding to food contamination to measures to prevent and protect the integrity of food imports,” the Minister stated.
Codex standards are recognized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) as the international reference point for food related matters. Under the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreements, it is
stipulated that sanitary and phytosanitary measures, as well as technical regulations must
be based on international standards. These agreements also actively encourage member countries to fully participate in the work of organizations responsible for the development of international standards.
Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said both the FSMA and the Codex Committee meeting can yield positive results for the island’s exports. This, as conformity to the stipulations will result in better quality exports and provide additional opportunity for the penetration of non-traditional US markets.
“It is within that context that Jamaica’s hosting of the 26th Codex Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables is, for Jamaica and the region, a significant event. It will provide us with firsthand experience in coordinating a meeting of this nature and magnitude. It provides an opportunity for Jamaicans, including local and regional manufacturers, to participate in the development of standards for value-added agricultural products; ultimately the outcomes will redound to the enhancement of international trade,” she contended.
The five-day conference, being co-hosted with the United States, is being attended by delegates from 35 countries who are meeting to deliberate on and adopt positions on food safety related issues.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop food standards to protect consumers’ health, and ensure fair trade in the food trade.