CARICOM: CAHFSA Launched in Suriname - Sec. Gen. Remarks
Third major regional body
REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY EDWIN W. CARRINGTON, SECRETARY-GENERAL, CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM) ON THE OCCASION OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CARIBBEAN AGRICULTURAL HEALTH AND FOOD SAFETY AGENCY (CAHFSA), 18 MARCH 2010, PARAMARIBO, SURINAME
It is with a sense of progress and pride that as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, I address you at this Inauguration Ceremony of the Headquarters of the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA).
Let me at the outset thank the President of Suriname, His Excellency Runaldo Venetiaan. It was you, Excellency, who at the Thirtieth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community in July 2009, confirmed Suriname’s earlier offer of 2007 to be the host country for CAHFSA. Since that time you have acted with unrelenting conviction and commitment towards the establishment of CAHFSA. We thank you, Mr. President for your unswerving commitment.
We also thank the Ministers of Agriculture, the private sector, and our International Development Partners for keeping the issue of CAHFSA at the forefront of the Community’s agricultural development agenda, and for paving the way to what we are celebrating today - the transformation from an entity on paper to one of bricks, mortar and policy for action.
Mr. Chairman, most important of all I must thank the Conference of Heads of Government whose swift and decisive action at the Twenty-First Inter-Sessional Meeting last week in Dominica, ensured our presence here today.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, the central role which Suriname has been playing in the Regional Integration process is today further emphasised by the presence of this, the third major Regional Body with Headquarters in Suriname. It joins the Caribbean Community Competition Commission and the Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute (CRITI). Significantly, CAHFSA and the Commission are two of the most critical Institutions in respect to the operations of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) – a flagship activity of the Community.
The operations of CAHFSA are vital in fulfilling the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which calls for the establishment of an effective Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) regime and for the harmonization of laws, administrative practices and procedures in respect of Agriculture. Indeed, the Jagdeo Initiative has identified the current agricultural health and food safety system as a key binding constraint to the further development of the Region’s agricultural sector. Undoubtedly therefore, this Agency will undergird the drive towards greater Community trade in food and agricultural products giving impetus to the CSME.
In particular, in the context of increasing the Region’s share of the global trade in agricultural products and the dearth of national capacity in agricultural health and food safety, CAHFSA’s role assumes even greater significance.
CAHFSA will be faced with the task of developing technical measures and protocols required to achieve SPS certification for agricultural trade.
CAHFSA will also have to devise arrangements to reduce the use of SPS measures as non-tariff barriers, including undue administrative delays in the clearance of perishable agricultural goods as restrictions to agricultural trade.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I cannot over-emphasise that food safety and agricultural health risk management should be considered as a core competence in the competitiveness of our countries, especially in the context of trade in high-value food products. SPS-related challenges should therefore be addressed within the broader context of competitiveness, rather than through isolated interventions. We must adopt a production-to-consumption, or as it is usually described as a `farm-to-table’ perspective, requiring traceability of all inputs in the food production chain.
The challenge for agricultural production and trade is compounded by the ease of and increase in travel and movement of people and cargo globally. As this increases, so too does the ease with which pests and diseases can enter our borders. Additionally, the impact of climate change may also increase the ability of some pests to establish and spread throughout our Region. CAHFSA will have to deal with this.
Policy-makers, laboratory and inspection officials, scientists and researchers must define the right mix of legislative, technical, administrative and financial measures which would serve to safeguard our borders from the introduction and spread of pests and diseases, while ensuring that the agricultural commodities that we produce, consume and trade, are safe for human consumption.
Mr. President, Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are all too aware of the global food crisis which necessitated a meeting of our Heads of Government in December 2007 to craft solutions to the challenges posed. What was clearly understood and enunciated at that time was the urgent need for us to produce an increasing share of the food that we consume. To that end, certain initiatives were designed to propel greater investment in agriculture, led by the private sector. As these bear fruit in the coming months and years, the importance of CAHFSA will grow as we must ensure safety even as we meet our food and nutrition security goals.
If CAHFSA fulfils its objective, it is our expectation that it will be a trade facilitator which enhances our export capability, allowing our food and agricultural products to meet regional as well as international agricultural health and food safety standards. We must challenge ourselves, in CAHFSA to develop an institution that will truly achieve that goal.
Let us therefore buckle down to the task of making CAHFSA an institution of which we can be proud and which can be a shining light along the path of progress in keeping with the Community’s development vision. If we are to achieve the Community for All that we seek, we must bear in mind the Nassau Declaration’s theme, the Health of the Region is the Wealth of the Region and a basic element of that is food which is safe and nutritious. Put simply, this is what we expect CAHFSA to lead the Caribbean Community in achieving.
I thank you.