Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Donovan Stanberry, has emphasised the need for Jamaica to aggressively pursue and exploit export opportunities for agricultural produce, in markets in CARICOM and the Diaspora.
This, he contends, is necessary because of the need to source alternative markets for excess crop yields, resulting from six consecutive quarters of increased production within the sector, as well as meeting and fulfilling the needs of Jamaicans in the Diaspora.
Addressing the opening of a three-day Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) workshop, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, today (April 13),
Mr. Stanberry, in alluding to the sector’s growth, noted concerns over resulting challenges which could occur.
Chief Technical Director, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Dr. Marc Panton (left), emphasises a point to Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture’s (IICA) Agricultural Health and Food Safety Director in Costa Rica, Dr. Ricardo Molins (right), following the opening of a three-day IICA/United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)/United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) workshop on ‘Good Practices for Participation in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Forums’, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Tuesday (April 13). Sharing in the discussion are: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Mr. Donovan Stanberry (2nd left), who was the keynote speaker, and Director, International Visitors’ Programme, International Affairs Staff Centre for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, USFDA, Dr. Johnny Braddy.
“One of the things we are concerned about is that, for some products, like peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce, and some of the tubers, such as yams and sweet potatoes, we are probably at the threshold now, where, if we do not find markets outside of Jamaica, then we are going to start having problems. Because, while it is a problem when we don’t produce enough, it is an even bigger problem when we produce too much without having adequate markets in which to sell. So, we have to design an export strategy to get these products out,” he explained.
To this end, Mr. Stanberry cited targeting regional states as an option, while noting that Jamaica has “taken the CARICOM market for granted too much.” He pointed out that Jamaica has been part of the regional body since its inception, adding that the country has been “one of the biggest lobbyists” in terms of inter-regional trade.
“But, for some reason, we have not exploited the regional markets, as we should. And we make excuses and we comfort ourselves and say ‘well, we can’t do any better because we don’t have air links’. But the truth is, when you go into a hotel in Barbados and Antigua, the products that you see there, coming from the United States mainland, I don’t know that those countries have more links with the US mainland than we have. We have to find a way to get more of our produce into that CARICOM market, and the Ministry will be helping and trying to lead our producers along that path,” he said.
Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mr. Donovan Stanberry (centre), engages Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dr. Marc Panton (left), and the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture’s (IICA) Agricultural Health and Food Safety Director in Costa Rica, Dr. Ricardo Molins, in discussion during the opening of the three-day IICA/United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)/United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) workshop on ‘Good Practices for Participation in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Forums’, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Tuesday (April 13). Mr. Stanberry was the keynote speaker.
Regarding the Diaspora, Mr. Stanberry lamented that, while a number of individuals and organisations had, for many years, pioneered and engaged in export trade with the North American markets, in particular, enough had not been done to adequately understand their needs.
“It is like shooting in the dark, you might hit the target and you might not. We have to get an understanding of what the market demands, what are the standards, not only in terms of sanitary and phytosanitary measures, but in terms of the size of the products. We have to make a concerted effort to penetrate that market,” the Permanent Secretary contended.
Noting that other countries exporting to North America have utilised the Miami, USA-based office of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), to better understand these constituents, Mr. Stanberry suggested that Jamaica follow suit.
“The Ministry of Agriculture has taken a decision that we have to deliberately and consciously go out to understand these markets. And so, we are developing (on) that,” Mr. Stanberry said.
Over 30 delegates and participants from several local stakeholder Ministries and agencies, and eight pacific island nations are participating in the workshop, being staged by the IICA, in collaboration with the United States Food and Drug Administration
(USFDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The workshop, which lasts until Thursday (April 15), is being held under the theme: ‘Good Practices for Participation in Sanitary and Phytosanitary Forums’, and is the first of six that will be held in the region.
The local representatives are from the Ministries of Agriculture and Fisheries, Health, and Industry, Investment and Commerce; Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ); and Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA). There are also; farmers, importers and exporters. Among the visiting participants are representatives from Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu.
The Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures is a World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement, which sets the rules for international trade in agricultural products. Jamaica is a signatory of the WTO Agreement.
The forum aims to raise awareness among private and public sector stakeholders about the importance of the Agreement, regarding a country’s trade in food products, with particular emphasis on the standards setting process of the Codex Alimentarius, which deals with issues relating to food safety, food contaminants, labelling, the impact of such standards, the need and ways to participate in this process.
It is being held against the background of the increasing importance of SPS issues in relation to trade in food and the need to raise the awareness of policy makers and decision makers in the public and private sectors of the rights and obligations under the various international agreements that govern trade in agricultural products.