A national consultation on measures to improve Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures SPS in Belize was held last week Thursday at the George Price Center for Peace and Development. A team working out of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture IICA Office in Barbados took to the podium to make a presentation on a special Caribbean Project, which seeks to benefit Belize and other countries in the Caribbean.

The Project, 'Support to the Caribbean Forum of ACP States in the Implementation of Commitments Undertaken Under the Economic Partnership Agreement for Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures,' hereafter referred to as the SPS Project, was signed into effect by IICA and the European Union EU on August 24, 2013. This 42 month project comes at a cost of Euro 11.7 million and is to benefit CARIFORUM Countries. Three of the main components of the SPS Project are Legislation, Coordination mechanisms and capacity building, which are greatly needed to improve both sanitary and phytosanitary measures. These CARIFORUM countries are comprised of Belize, Antigua & Barbuda, The Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Surinam, the Bahamas and Trinidad & Tobago.

Member countries of the World Trade Organizations WTO are encouraged to adopt SPS Measures. These SPS Measures take into consideration some health aspects relating to sanitary (for human or animal life) or phytosanitary (for plant life or health).

The international trade aspect of the SPS Agreement means that in seeking to protect health, WTO members must not use SPS measures that are unnecessary, not science-based, and arbitrary or which constitute a disguised restriction on international trade.

Over the years Belize has had its share of certain pests such as Citrus Greening, Citrus Leprosis, Pink Hybiscus Mealy Bug as well as periodic entry of the Mediterranean Fruit Fly that have strained the Country's technical and regulatory bodies, making SPS measures more relevant. Also on the list are the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, Classical Swine Fever as well as other food borne pathogens that can affect humans. Doctor Muhammad Ibrahim, IICA Representative in Belize believes that as Belize expands its trade agreement with El Salvador and other countries it will have to implement Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures, to firstly protect its agriculture from such aforementioned threats and to secure its foreign markets.

"This initiative [SPS] is timely as our Country moves forward to consolidate its agricultural sector into a meaningful and critical contributor to our economy. Great efforts are underway to revamp our agricultural and food policy to boost productivity to ensure food security and to expand our trade base," states the Honorable Hugo Patt, Minister of State in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Meanwhile; members of the SPS Project team sought to gather inputs for several hours last week from the Belize Agriculture Health Authority, The Belize Sugar Industry, Galen University, Running W Meats and other stakeholders to come up with SPS needs, which will be shared with Ministers in the coming months as a final Country Assessment.
According to SPS Project leader Dr. Carol Thomas, Belize is the only Country within CARIFORUM that has a system such as the Belize Agriculture Health Authority BAHA and are aiming to adopt its model of operations with respect to coordination within agricultural health and food safety.

So far, the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Project Team has visited Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica and now plan to travel to Guyana, Suriname, Haiti and the Dominican Republic to assist these Countries in getting greater access to Global Markets.

The Guardian