Addressing a twp-day regional workshop on food traceability here, organised by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Esworth Reid, said many countries within the region have restricted trade of agriculture products often through the “unfair and indiscriminate use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures” which were designed to protect humans, plants and animals from disease and contaminants.
“I’m not saying that any member country within the region should go blindly ahead and import an agricultural pest from another country. But by now, and this is since the last four decades that CARICOM was formed, I believe that all the risk assessment of countries that need to have been done, should have been done already, and there should have been more freeing up of trade in agriculture products among member states,” Reid stated.
He said too often CARICOM states say they cannot accept certain agriculture products from their neighbours because of the need for a risk assessment to be conducted in the potential exporting country.
“This is despite the fact that many of us still continue to import similar products from certain developed countries without knowing under what conditions they were produced, or if the agriculture produce that we import are produced in the same country from which we import them.”
With regards to the region’s trade relations with developed countries, Reid told the workshop that the liberalisation of world trade has only worked to the benefit of developed countries.
He said while a reduction in tariff barriers in some developed countries are being negotiated, “non-tariff barriers relating to sanitary and non-sanitary measures are being built up in the same developed countries at the same time, to make it more difficult for our products to enter those countries.
“This, I believe, has also been the case of many of the bilateral agreements that our countries signed on to with some developed countries.
“This is why despite the preferential benefits offered to us through these agreements, most of our countries’ benefits were just on paper. Many of our countries still found difficulty in accessing these so-called preferential markets, and most often the difficulties were linked to SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) measures,” he told the workshop.
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