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    Jamaica’s draft national plant health policy, which aims at safeguarding public health while boosting agricultural production, is now available for public consultation.
    The draft policy is on the Ministry of Agriculture’s website, where it will remain for the next eight weeks. The public may visit the website, at www.moa.gov.jm, and make comments. The document is expected to be tabled in Parliament in the 2009-10 fiscal year which starts on April 1.
    “This is in keeping with established criteria for public sector consultation,” said Stacy Rose of the Ministry’s Policy and Planning Division.
    Close to 80 stakeholders, including farmers, specialists, business persons and Ministry of Agriculture officials, reviewed the draft document at a workshop at the Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston, on Thursday(March 12).
    Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Donovan Stanberry, said that the initiative demonstrated the ministry’s commitment to putting systems in place to ensure safe handling of agricultural products in all spheres, and due diligence to phytosanitary (plant health) standards for imports.
    Rationale for the policy, as outlined in the document, includes maximisation of Jamaica’s food production and trade; protection of the environment from invasive plant pests; and increasing public awareness about the importance of plant health. The main outcome cited is development of an efficient plant health system.
    Proposed steps to achieve this include: a harmonised legislative and regulatory framework; alignment of current plant health systems with international standards and obligations; establishment of systems to prevent the introduction of harmful pests; and promotion of environmentally friendly plant protection strategies.
    One recommendation is to designate the plant quarantine/produce inspection unit at the Ministry of Agriculture as the National Plant Protection Organization of Jamaica. This would unite and clarify reporting relationships among agencies involved in plant health; minimize overlap; allow better sharing of information; speed-up responses to pest outbreaks and help to avert such outbreaks.
    For the scope of the policy, plant health entails the application of scientific knowledge, logic and innovation to administrative and regulatory systems for achieving a good standard of health in plants, including cultivated and uncultivated, unmanaged plants, wild flora, habitats and ecosystems.

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