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Opening Market Access for Belize Print E-mail
( 2 Votes )
Written by The Guardian   
Thursday, 13 February 2014 14:36

Sanitary and Phytosanitary SPS Agreements have been made by World Trade Organization Members to protect the human, animal and plant health within their territories from certain risks, and which may affect international trade. The risk to animal life comes from the entry of pests, disease carrying organisms, additives and contaminants. Meanwhile; the risks to humans come from additives, contaminants and disease carrying organisms in food or beverages. Therefore; the importation of food, plants and animals are three of the main risk pathways. Increasing volumes of international trade in these products means that quarantine procedures must be able to adeptly deal with the potential pathways for pests and diseases.

Globally there is an increased demand for fish, meat and vegetables; meaning that there will be an increase in the regional international trade of such foods. Already, the CARIFORUM countries which includes all fourteen Caribbean Community Countries CARICOM plus The Dominican Republic are responding to this increase in trade by seeking to improve their Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures to open access not only to European Markets but to markets around the World that subscribe to SPS Measures.

“SPS Measures relate directly to your ability to access markets and relate directly to your ability to protect your domestic markets from risks,” says Dr. Robert Ahern, Manager of the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture IICA Health and Food Safety Program, who was in Belize a few days ago to gauge Sanitary and Phytosanitary measure practices.

“If you can’t engage in International Trade and understand SPS Topics then you are missing out on market opportunities and likewise, if your Legislation and National Organization doesn’t enable you to function in this environment then you are really missing on opportunities…this is a science kind of theme but it is all based on economics.”

The Guardian asked Dr. Robert Ahern to quantify the scale of European markets that Belize can have access to but he said that he did not have the figures available at this time. However; he said that at the end of an SPS Project in the Region, that figure will be made available.

Ahern was referring to 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,’ now known as the SPS Project, which was signed into effect by IICA and the European Union EU on August 24, 2013. Both Dr. Robert Ahern and SPS Project Director Dr. Carol Thomas were recently in Belize targeting regulatory bodies and Industry to explain the benefits under this Project.

The overall objective of the SPS Project is to support the beneficial integration of the CARIFORUM States to increase the production and trade in agriculture and fisheries, which meet international standards while protecting plant, animal and human health and the environment. The partners of this 11.7 Million Euros Project are IICA (the implementing agency), the CARICOM Secretariat, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism and the SPS Committee of the Dominican Republic.

“We are looking at legislation coordination mechanisms and capacity building…to develop model legislation and protocol guidelines in the areas of agriculture, food safety and fisheries, says Dr. Carol Thomas.

“We are looking at developing effective national and regional coordination mechanisms in support of the sanitary and phytosanitary regime,” she also said.
Indeed; the third component of the SPS Project is capacity building in regulatory bodies such as the Belize Agriculture Health Authority BAHA, which stands much to benefit from the SPS Project and recently participated in gathering inputs on the level of SPS Measures in Belize.