Local quarantine services were strengthened when the Ministry of Agriculture’s Veterinary Services and Plant Quarantine Divisions received incinerator equipment valued at $6.9 million from the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP) on Tuesday, February 24, 2004.
The presentation took place during a ceremony held at the Veterinary Quarantine Station, Plumb Point, Palisadoes in Kingston.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, who gave the main address, stated that the equipment was central to the Ministry’s battle against plant and animal pests and diseases by playing a very critical role in how waste was disposed of. This would ensure food safety for the nation’s people, he said.
The presence of the incinerator would also enhance the nation’s position in regards to world trade as it would help the country to comply with sanitary and phyto (plant) sanitary rules and regulations governing world trade, Mr. Clarke added.
Turning to the influx of Haitian refugees into the island and the potential risk of Jamaicans being exposed to the swine disease, Minister Clarke stated that this concern needed the collaboration of the agriculture and health ministries.
“We have to really monitor the movement of those people who are coming in; they are brothers and we have to deal with them from a humanitarian point of view but we have to protect our population in Jamaica and that is what we intend to do,” stressed the Minister.
He also commended the veterinary division for its efforts in ensuring that the country’s animal health profile was world class, pointing to ministry initiatives such as the National Screwworm Eradication Programme that was designed to rid animals of the screwworm.
Minister Clarke also commended the ASSP for its initiatives that were geared towards revolutionizing the agriculture landscape in areas such as aquaculture and agro processing. To date it has spent more than $30 million to purchase equipment, and finance training and consultancies and civil works for the veterinary services and plant quarantine divisions to strengthen agricultural quarantine services.
Carol Thomas, Chief Plant Quarantine Officer in the Ministry, expressed gratitude for the incinerator, stating that it would be very helpful in destroying fruit, vegetables and animals that were brought in unauthorized by travellers.
“It is important for us to make it clear that harmful exotic pests and diseases, both plant and animal pests and diseases, can come in on even one apple a leg of ham or partially cooked chicken,” the quarantine officer cautioned.
Confiscated items are properly incinerated in order to eliminate any pests and the risk of them spreading. This will give the division the confidence that they are protecting the nation’s agriculture and also human health because many animal diseases are transferable to humans, she added.
“This equipment will increase our credibility internationally by boosting our quarantine system and countries with which we trade both import and export, want to know that we indeed have facilities and systems that will be able to maintain agricultural and human health,” she stressed.
The incinerator is used in plant and animal quarantine operations. Its main purpose is to safely destroy material that is imported into the country or material that comes in passenger baggage that is considered at risk of introducing dangerous plant and animal pests and diseases and even some human diseases.
The incinerator’s capacity is 135 kilograms (300 pounds) of plant or animal material. It burns all material to ash with a heat of more than 1,000 degrees Celsius.
There are operational, environmental and maintenance plans to ensure the incinerator’s sustainability. ASSP is funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Inter American Development Bank (IDB).