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JIS News

The project for the national certification of agricultural produce has been extended to June.The pilot project, which is aimed at reducing pesticide residue in agricultural produce, commenced in January of 2004 and was scheduled for completion last year. However, its progress was hampered due to heavy rains, droughts and hurricanes.
Addressing the weekly JIS Think Thank, Inspector at the Pesticides Control Authority (PCA), Kerry Helligar, said that because of the adverse weather conditions, which resulted in the loss of a number of crops, the project had to be restarted three times. “Each time that happened, we had to start the process from scratch,” he told JIS News.
The PCA is among five entities that has partnered with the Jamaica Agricultural Society and the Bureau of Standards to carry out the project, which is geared toward developing good agricultural practices by ensuring that environmental standards are met and that pesticide residue is at an acceptable level.The other parties are the Ministry of Agriculture, Scientific Research Council, National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE).
Under the project, agencies have been working closely with 17 farmers in the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Elizabeth, St. Andrew, St. Catherine and St. Ann, providing classroom and ‘on-the-farm training’. The farmers are required to carry out a specific set of procedures such as soil tests, among others, in the growing of escallion, tomato, thyme, carrot, ginger, hot and sweet peppers. They are also required to keep records of the chemicals used.
Once the crops were planted, the farmers collect data and monitor their progress right up to the point of harvesting.
According to Mr. Helligar, the programme was in response to the need to educate farmers about the requirements as they related to minimizing the pesticide residue in food. “If we are to maintain an export market to Europe, we must make these modifications and this is what the programme seeks to do,” he stated.
With the detection of maximum residue level (MRL) much better now, Mr. Helligar added that farmers had to be educated to the point where they could discern scientifically, when to harvest crops after applying chemicals. This is necessary, so as to have the minimal amount of residue on crops before shipment.”This is to ensure that a shipment of goods is not dumped because of high levels of pesticide residue,” he informed.
The success of the project will also depend on the awareness of the consumer, who will have the choice to seek out the produce certified by the Bureau of Standards.
On the budget for the project, which still stands at the original $2 million, Mr. Helligar said, “we are still trying to stretch it. It will definitely become a problem in the future. We are still trying to do our best and the farmers are working with us and trying to ensure that the programme is a success.”