BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Greater food safety is the goal of a new project recently launched in Jamaica by the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ). The two-year activity will seek to provide BSJ’s subsidiary the National Certification Body of Jamaica (NCBJ) with capacity-building resources to assist and strengthen the country’s production of safe food products for local consumption and export.
The project, valued at EUR 194,587, will establish NCBJ as a Certification Authority for food safety, accessible to the region. It is envisioned that the private sector and consumers will benefit from the greater economic opportunities and safer food production. The sector has been challenged to export to some markets by the requirements not being in sync with current systems and processes for preparation of inputs and the quality of products. The NCBJ and BSJ through the current project will work with the sector to address some of these gaps. It targets MSMEs primarily because the sector accounts for 80 percent of employment in Jamaica and comprise more than 90 percent of all enterprises listed on the Jamaica Tax Register. The project also has a major component focused on the economic empowerment of women within the agro-processing sector.
The Standby Facility is a EUR8.75 million resource managed by CDB, which offers opportunities to 15 Caribbean economies to grow trade; deepen integration and economic involvement; and impact competitiveness, market access, and exports by implementing targeted projects in thematic areas.
Daniel Best, director, projects department, CDB at the launch stated that “these activities are part of our efforts to increase competitiveness and agricultural productivity by enabling increased market access. This is being achieved with the provision of the requisite infrastructure to enable efficient agricultural value chains recognising its potential to tackle income insecurity. The intent, in that regard, is to expand businesses’ access to new markets and diversify their existing products in order to increase sales and revenue.”
Funded by the European Union (EU) and managed by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) the Certification Services by the National Certification Body of Jamaica Project will build capacity at the NCBJ to offer globally accepted testing and certification support in food safety management. The initiative will also train a cadre of persons locally to supervise existing food safety systems to maintain compliance with export requirements. Safer food production and increased exports to new and existing markets are the anticipated results.
EU ambassador to Jamaica H.E. Marianne Van Steen, encouraged businesses to do more to ensure access to the myriad opportunities available through trade with Europe and within the region. The EU is committed to strengthening the region’s capabilities in order to leverage the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
“There is a real will and determination from the side of the European Union to ensure that the agreement can be well used. The EU is not only working on certification but also on innovation and intellectual property rights, technical barriers to trade, phytosanitary measures, customs and trade facilitation to contribute to the integration of CARIFORUM into the world economy and bolster the effective implementation of the EPA,” also emphasised the importance of continued and deepened partnerships and new pursuits contributing to the economic sustainability of the region.
Minister of industry, investment & commerce, Audley Shaw while advocating for Jamaica to produce its way to prosperity, cited the impact of the project on the country’s Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) which he indicated would open doors in CARICOM and ease their navigation of trade barriers. According to the minister, “the spin-offs…are job creation and increased brand visibility for Jamaica as our MSMEs penetrate new markets and deepen their footholds in others armed with certificates confirming that Jamaican goods and services are of a high quality and meet international market requirements.”
According to executive director (Ag) at the BSJ Dr Dwight Ramdon: “In as much as the NCBJ and its officers will initially benefit; in the long run, the real beneficiaries of this grant will be the food exporters of Jamaica and other countries which make up CARIFORUM.”
He added that the agency continues to support food processors through initiatives targeting MSMEs. Post-implementation, he projected that MSMEs will be better positioned leading to improved earnings for the country, as local food processors confidently enter major export markets.
Representatives of CARICOM and CARIFORUM who also spoke at the launch encouraged those targeted by the project in agro-processing and manufacturing to avail themselves of the impending opportunities. Lauding the Jamaican government for its strategies aimed at the internationalisation of its MSMEs, Leo Preville, programme manager at the CSME Unit, CARICOM Secretariat, stated that the project also impacts regional integration.
“Trade is an imperative and pushing the boundaries of market access is even more critical in these unprecedented times and calls for new and improved approaches to production, marketing and distribution,” he stated.