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Suriname to host regional health and food safety agency

food imports should face similar ‘risk assessment inspections’

Suriname is to host the secretariat of a new intra-regional body, which Caribbean Community (Caricom) Heads of Government have agreed to establish to oversee an effective regime of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures for the region.

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding

The creation and effective policing of strict health-related standards for Caricom territories was discussed at the recent 30th Regular Meeting of Caricom Heads against the backdrop of issues that have arisen in recent times regarding intra-regional trade in food products.

The final communique issued at the conclusion of the July 2-5 Summit alluded to “the urgent need to establish an effective regional regime of PSH measures” and mandated COTED to advise on arrangements for the setting up of a Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) which will be responsible for the administration of the PSH standards.

Caricom Heads also agreed on the establishment of “interim arrangements” for the execution of the functions of the CAHFSA until the body is set up.

At the meeting in Georgetown, issues arose over the consideration of regional PSH standards, and the impact of these on the smooth flow of intra-regional trade. Difficulties have arisen in recent times, particularly between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding has publicly expressed concern over issues relating to separate PSH standards in the various Caricom territories. Golding alluded to concerns which he said had been expressed by Jamaican exporters over the “hassles” associated with intra-regional trade. He pointed out that Jamaican businessmen had complained about difficulties associated with the recognition by other Caricom states of that country’s PSH standards in circumstances where there was extra-regional acceptance of those standards.

Heads of Government also agreed that Caricom member states “should extend to intra-regional new food products, treatment no less favourable than is extended to extra-regional new food product imports, including risk assessment inspections.”

PSH issues and other considerations that have impacted the effective implementation of the Caribbean Single Market (CSM) are expected to arise at a meeting, which regional leaders have agreed to convene to consider an audit of the CSM’s implementation. This was handed over at the recent meeting of Caricom Heads.

This newspaper has been reliably informed that a number of issues including those relating to concerns over the imposition of non-tariff barriers that militate against the spirit of the CSM are likely to be discussed.

Sections of private sector in Guyana have complained about difficulties they have faced in seeking to access regional markets for goods produced here. They have named other Caricom territories which they say have been seeking to maximize their own intra-regional exports while blocking imports from other countries.

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Winsome Murphy