The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Co-operatives in collaboration with the International Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health (OIRSA) hosted the XLVI Annual General Meeting of Ministries of Agriculture of Central America at Journey's End Resort in San Pedro last weekend. Representatives from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Belize that comprise the organization were present during the meeting. Hon. Daniel Silva, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Co-operative succeeded Mr. Ricardo Quiñonez Avila of El Salvador as President of the Honorable Committee of the International Regional Organization for Plant and Animal Health (H.CIRSA). The election was done unanimously since the policy states that the Minister of the host country, automatically becomes the president.
OIRSA also consists of a national representative in the country. Mr. John Link is the national representative in Belize. They work closely with the Minister of Agriculture and each country contributes money for the running of the organization. Other revenue is collected from quarantine treatments from the Ministry of Agriculture. In Belize treatment posts to prevent hitchhiking pests from coming into the country are situated at the Benque/Guatemalan border, Santa Elena/Corozal border, the Maritime Port in Belize City and the Phillip Goldson International Airport.
The annual conference is held to discuss topics with regards to the agriculture industry in each country. Some of the main topics discussed were the recent closure of the Guatemalan border to fresh oranges coming from Belize and Honduras. After successful negotiations by the Hon. Daniel Silva and a technician team from the department of Agriculture with their counterparts in Guatemala, Guatemala has re-opened its borders to citrus imports from Belize, as well as Honduras. Another topic discussed was the increasing rate of Lethal Yellowing affecting Belize and Honduras. With regards to this, representatives from Mexico offered interested countries, resistant seedlings that they are producing. It was also suggested that OIRSA offer services to each country. OIRSA in Guatemala is running the entire quarantine services for a period of one year and has been very successful. It was suggested that the rest of the countries provide the same services. Some were in favor but others were skeptical to this idea. Belize, however is currently establishing a program called National Agriculture Health Services (NAHS) which is equivalent to what OIRSA was suggesting. NAHS would consist of a semi-autonomous body to administer the agricultural health services in Belize.
Belize's national representative, Mr. John Link, told the San Pedro Sun, "This forum is helpful for resolving international disputes in the region and harmonizing policies for individual countries and the region. In addition to the issues, it provides good contacts for technicians and it is a good opportunity to exchange ideas for agriculture."
During the forum it was proposed and accepted that the next general meeting be held in Mexico. While in San Pedro the representatives that make up OIRSA also had an opportunity to tour the island and enjoy trips to the barrier reef.
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