PROFESSIONALS in the food safety sector are now benefiting from a South-South Triangular Cooperation Project initiated by Chile and aimed at increasing capacity for strengthening the functioning of the Codex Alimentarius structure in Guyana.According to the Representative in Guyana of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Wilmot Garnett, the two-year project is being executed as a technical development cooperation project, in which Chile has partnered with IICA and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to achieve stronger Codex systems, not only in Guyana, but also in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia and Suriname.
The Codex Alimentarius, initiated in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), is a set of international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice which contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of international food trade.
Compliance by exporters ensures that consumers can trust the safety and quality of the food products they buy, and importers can trust that the food they ordered would be delivered in accordance with their specifications.
Governments see benefits for health and trade by implementing national standards derived from Codex Alimentarius. Farmers ensure that their produce can be sold at home and abroad by following national standards based on Codex Alimentarius, and the system is seen as a solid foundation for sustaining the profitability of farming worldwide.
The technical cooperation activities are being financially supported by the Chilean Agency for International Cooperation for Development and the United States Department of Agriculture, and are being implemented with IICA’s support.
A one-day workshop in this regard was held in Guyana last week. Agriculture Minister Noel Holder was the guest speaker at that function, held at the Cara Lodge in Quamina Street, Georgetown. Others present included United States Ambassador to Guyana Perry Holloway; Chilean Ambassador to Guyana, Claudio Rojas Rachel; International Affairs Coordinator and Chile Codex Contact Point in the Chilean Food Quality and Food Safety Agency (ACHIPIA), Diego Varela; Media Manager, ACHIPIA, Eduardo Espinosa; IICA Specialist in Agricultural Health and Food Safety, Trinidad Delegation, Dr Lisa Harrynanan; Programme Manager, Agriculture and Industry at the CARICOM Secretariat, Nisa Surujbally; members of the diplomatic corps, Government of Guyana officials and private sector representatives; Guyana’s Representative at IICA, Wilmot Garnett; local staffers of IICA and members of the Guyana’s National CODEX Committee.
Addressing the workshop, Minister Holder said the importance of Codex in the context of Guyana’s bid to provide safe food locally, enable exports and expand agriculture, has always been on the forefront of Government’s plans for national development.
He stressed that it was imperative that Guyana adopt a scientific and technological approach in transforming the agricultural development trajectory and in advancing science-based food standards which will help this country to adjust quickly to the growing competitiveness of the international markets.
Ambassador Holloway said globalisation of trade, which has contributed to food availability and diversification throughout the world, has increased the chances that the food produced in one place will affect the health and diet of people living in another.
“As foodborne and waterborne illnesses kill an estimated 2.2 million people annually, most of them children, the Codex provides an opportunity for all of us to promote human health without putting barriers to productivity and the sustainable development of countries’ economies.”
Ambassador Claudio Rojas Rachel said the workshop, as well as others to be carried out in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Lucia and Suriname, was carried out as an activity of a project drafted through the Chilean fund against hunger and poverty, with support from IICA.
He noted that Chile was appointed as the new Coordinator for the Codex Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean last year.
“I would also like to mention and thank the financial contribution made by the United States Department of Agriculture for this activity, which allowed us to expand the outreach of this first mission to the Caribbean,” the diplomat said.
Diego Varela of ACHIPIA told the Guyanese participants at the workshop that they would be expected to send a draft version of Guyana’s Codex Procedural Manual and Strategy by September this year, and then a second draft around January 2017.
“We are hoping to get your final version within a year, so that when we come back to get another workshop, it will be ready for implementation,” he said.
Guyana became a member of the Codex Alimentarius Commission since 1970, and falls within the Latin America and the Caribbean Region.
Guyana’s National Codex Committee was resuscitated on March 05, 2014 through the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS), and has been receiving support from IICA.
The National Codex Committee comprises 17 members from sectors such as Government, non-government organisations (NGOs), private sector and academia. The GNBS is the Codex Contact Point for Guyana.