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The government of Jamaica will be introducing a “passport system” in the cattle industry as part of efforts to prevent disease outbreak and address animal theft.
The system, which will initially be introduced in Kingston, and later move to all other parts of the island, will see plastic and metal tags being affixed to the ear of cattle, with numbering representing parish and farm holding. Farmers will be required to register the birth of their calves to enable the trace-back of a cut of beef to a particular slaughterhouse or butchery.
Slated to come on stream in October, the initiative will be implemented under the Animal Identification System for Jamaica programme, which is being supported by the Agricultural Support Services Project (ASSP). The Veterinary Services Division is the executing agency.
Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke in his address at a breakfast meeting held this morning (July 27) at the Knutsford Court Hotel to launch the project, said that apart from the benefit of addressing praedial larceny, the introduction of the passport system, “puts Jamaica squarely on the international scene. If we are to be engaged in trading, there are exacting demands out there that we must also satisfy if …we are able to stand up to all types of scrutiny.”
He commended the ASSP for its support for the project. “What you are doing with this identification system is to enable traceability to the extent that every pound of beef that is on the shelf can be traced back to the animal and the farm from which it came. The days of back yard situation is coming to an end because food safety is going to be the norm all around,” the Minister stressed.
Meanwhile, the Minister has expressed optimism about the future of the dairy industry. “We have been looking at what we can do with dairy and I tell you with what is happening in Europe, I do not see cheap milk powder continuing to flow into this country. We are putting legislation in place to deal with the Dairy (Industry) Board and we still hope that there can be some way of reviving the dairy industry,” he stated.
Don McGlashan, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture noted that, “maintaining our relatively high status in relation to animal health is of critical importance given the economic and social significance of agriculture to the country’s economy.”
He said the traceability of animals and animal products had undeniably become a priority for governments worldwide, largely due to consumer demand for comprehensive and integrated food safety policies.
The urgent need for such reforms, he further stated, was highlighted by recent outbreaks of mad cow disease in Europe, which has wreaked havoc on the cattle population in that region. “Animal identification systems are now considered to be the most effective and efficient method by which to maintain well-being and security of national herds.
Animal identification systems have a major role to play in the monitoring and control of diseases and can also contribute significantly to the prevention of praedial larceny, which can undermine such a system,” he said.
The benefits of such identification, the Permanent Secretary said, might be better understood if one were to consider the possible introduction of a foreign animal disease into Jamaica. “In such an event, a system of this kind would enable us to identify all the premises, which have been in direct contact with that foreign animal disease within the targeted time frames,” he pointed out.