THE Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) will drive greater CARICOM trade in food and agricultural products, giving impetus to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) as well as increase the Region’s share of the global trade in these products.
CAHFSA will ensure a harmonised regional approach to intra-regional trade in agricultural produce, agricultural health and food safety.
The long-awaited CAHFSA has been fully operationalised.
This announcement came on the heels of a meeting of the Board of Directors of CAHFSA at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat from November 17-19, 2014.
Welcoming the announcement, a reliable local source said that the work of the Board will be significant for intra-regional trade in agricultural products, because CAHFSA is the agency which the Region will depend on to strengthen agricultural health and food safety, and ensure the highest standards for such trade.
He said: “Sections of the private sector in Guyana have long complained about difficulties they have faced in seeking to access regional markets for goods produced here. They have gone so far as to name some CARICOM territories which they say, have been seeking to maximise their own intra-regional exports, while blocking imports from Guyana using Non Tariff Measures (NTMs).”
He said that CAHFSA will devise arrangements to eliminate the abuse of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures such as deliberate administrative delays in the clearance of perishable agricultural goods.
The Chairman of the Board is Ms. Audine Mootoo of Trinidad and Tobago.
Other members are: Dr. Helena Browne of Antigua and Barbuda; Dr. Beverley Wood of Barbados; Mr. Emir Cruz of Belize; Mr. Ryan Anselm of Dominica; Dr. Bowen Louisan of Grenada; Dr. Max Millien of Haiti; Mr. Thomas Jackson of St. Kitts and Nevis; Dr. Auria King of Saint Lucia; Dr. Kathian Hackshaw of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Mr. Rajendrekoemar Debie of Suriname; Ms. Sheila Harvey of Jamaica; Mr. Claude Brown of Montserrat and Dr. Dindyal Permaul of Guyana.
Agricultural Health and Food Safety has been identified by the Ministerial Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) as a key thematic area that must be addressed to remove the non-tariff measures (NTMs) that impede the trade of agricultural products both intra-regionally and extra-regionally.
The CAHFSA was decided on in 2010 when CARICOM member states agreed to its establishment, given the importance of agriculture as a key driver of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
CAHFSA’s operations will be vital to fulfilling the provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which calls for the establishment of effective SPS regimes and for the harmonisation of laws, administrative practices and procedures in respect of agriculture.
A source at the CARICOM Secretariat last week disclosed that the board has been working closely with the Secretariat in developing the rules and procedures, the administrative structure and the strategic plan for CAHFSA.
The Chief Executive Officer of CAHFSA, Mr. Lindley Collins, was appointed during Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) 2014 which was held in Suriname, where CAHFSA’s offices are located
In a brief interview at the CWA 2014, Mr. Collins indicated that among his priorities would be the establishment of an operational plan that will secure the Region’s agricultural health and ensure its citizens of safe and healthy food.
He added that this would entail, inter alia, the updating and harmonisation of laws across the Community, the strengthening of national institutions and physical facilities and the training of personnel to allow the Region to effect Articles 57 and 74 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to meet its obligations under the World Trade Organisation (WTO) SPS requirements.
The WTO SPS agreement requires that countries conform to SPS laws, standards and guidelines that are internationally recognised.
Workforce training and upgrading of national laboratories to conduct the required tests are among the priorities.
In its inception stages, the agency will benefit from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) SPS Programme (‘SPS Measures’ and ‘SPS Measures for Fisheries’) funded by the European Union (EU).
This programme is being implemented by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) on behalf of CARIFORUM, with the CARICOM Secretariat, and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) as the key co–implementers for CARICOM.