JIS News

Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has emphasised that a concerted effort must be made to ensure that agricultural produce that are entering the island are of the highest standards and quality.
Speaking with JIS News, during a tour of the Customs facilities at Newport West yesterday (Sept. 16), Dr. Tufton said that his main priorities were to ensure that the health and safety standards, along with the grade and quality of the produce were met, as well as ensuring that excellent agricultural produce is being imported.
“I want to be sure that the Jamaican consumers benefit from the minimum health and safety standards, so at least produce coming into the country must meet certain health and safety standards,” he said, adding that this was a collaborated effort and as such, the Ministries of Agriculture and Health and Environment will work closely with other agencies, to ensure that requirements are met.
“We want to ensure that agricultural produce that come into the country, come in on a basis where local farmers are given an equal opportunity to compete with those produce. In other words, if there is a duty to be paid, we want to ensure that the right duties are paid because part of the problems that we face with local farmers, is that they have to incur the cost of production in producing their goods, and in many cases, produce are produced elsewhere, (and) brought into the country at a cost less than the true cost of production,” he said.
He added that this had a major impact on the local farmers and as such his visit was to ensure that regulations are in place to ensure that the process works effectively.
Dr. Tufton pointed out that measures that must be implemented to ensure a better system were in place and as such there is a greater need for additional personnel to deal with matters such as health and safety, while ensuring that standards are maintained.
He added that the Ministry is working on improving the ‘one-stop-shop’, where many functions can be undertaken within that structure.
Meanwhile, Commissioner of Customs, Danville Walker, noted that there should be a greater vigilance to ensure that produce that are brought into the country will not expire within a few days after arrival.
He added that although Customs Officers are trained, there is a greater need for more people from the Ministry of Agriculture, to work with Customs.
“We are going to be vigilant…so that our farmers can compete but also on the quality of the goods side, we are protected from a health point of view. We cannot become a dumping ground for products that could not be sold in the United States,” he said.