Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development, Dr. David Estwick (FP)
Barbados has taken the first steps towards the development of a National Agricultural Health and Food Control Programme (NAHFCP).
The project, which will ensure that Barbados can compete successfully in the global market with respect to agricultural produce and products, was launched today at the Accra Beach Hotel, Rockley, Christ Church.
Speaking at the ceremony, Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development, Dr. David Estwick, underscored the value of such a programme, noting that it was necessary to "support and safeguard animal, plant and human health in the conduct and facilitation of trade.
"A modernised Agricultural Health and Food Control System will ensure that the food being consumed in Barbados, whether produced locally or imported is safe for consumption. It will also ensure that the inputs into agriculture and the food manufacturing industry are of good quality. Barbados, then like any other country with a modernised system will be able to market its produce on the international market," Dr. Estwick explained.
The Agriculture Minster added that another major benefit of such a system was the provision of preventative measures at all stages of food production and distribution, rather than merely inspection and rejection at the final stage.
"In this way, potential hazards and unsuitable products can be identified earlier along the chain, at the point of infection or contamination," he noted.
Dr. Estwick said the programme would also facilitate oversight of all aspects of agricultural health, food safety and quality including the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in the food chain including farmers, fishermen, food manufacturers and operators, regulatory agencies and consumers.
The objective of the NAHFCP is to enhance the competitiveness of the local agricultural and fisheries sectors by raising the National Agricultural Health and Food Control System to international safety standards.
It is being funded through an investment loan from the Inter-American Development Bank of US $20 million and US $8 million from the Government of Barbados.??
The four-year funded project will consist of two components: the establishment of institutional, legislative and regulatory framework of the National Agricultural Health and Food Control System and the creation of the National Agricultural Health and Food Control Agency.
The second will involve upgrading the agricultural health and food safety laboratories and related facilities, as well as providing adequate inspection and quarantine facilities at the air and sea ports.
In addition, the NAHFCP seeks to tackle issues such as outdated legislation, multiple jurisdictions and weaknesses in surveillance, monitoring and enforcement by employing a multi-agency approach.
This would involve the Ministries of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries, Industry and Small Business Development; Health; and Trade and Commerce joining forces to manage issues related to the National Agricultural Health and Food Control Programme.