Simeon Collins, former Director of the Grenada Bureau of Standards, now heads the agency on which the region will depend to strengthen agricultural health and food safety, and ensure the highest standards for trade in agricultural products.
The Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) which is based in Paramaribo, Suriname, was given the green light at the Twenty-First Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government which was held in Dominica.
The primary objectives of the Agency which became operational as of 1 October, is to develop support mechanisms that will enable countries to meet their obligations under the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement and under Articles 57 and 74 of the Revised treaty of Chaguaramas.
These include, but are not limited to support for the harmonisation of ‘laws, standards and administrative policies’ in respect to SPS measures with international standards, guidelines and recommendations used in the conduct of trade in agricultural products.
The agency will also be responsible for providing the necessary training of work force and regulators in the implementation of these laws and the upgrading of national laboratories to perform routine tests in the areas in the areas of plant health, animal health and food safety and the establishment of reference laboratories to conduct tests that are not required on a routine basis. It will also develop guidelines on the Conformity Assessment Programmes based on mutual recognition for products traded regionally
CAHFSA has its origin in the WTO-SPS Agreement which obliges Member States to ‘address the protection of human, animal and plant health through the implementation of internationally recognised health and food safety practices and systems.’
Consequently, under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established the CARICOM Single Market & Economy (CSME) in 2001, all Member States were obliged to “create an efficient and effective sanitary regime and to harmonize their laws and administrative process to effect such a regime.
In order for Member States to achieve this obligation under the WTO-SPS Agreement & the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, adequate institutional and legislative frameworks had to be developed and implemented. However, the small nature of these countries in relation to other global counterparts has restricted their capacity to individually provide the full range of services needed under these agreements.
By Linda Straker