(Information Extracted from the Daily Observer dated 31.07.13)
TWO hundred farmers and exporters have been trained in food safety management as the Government puts systems in place to ensure that Jamaica meets global food safety standards.
The training was a collaborative effort by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and several partners. Another 5,000 farmers have also been sensitised in local safety standards and the new Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) legislated by the United States of America.
More than $27 million of a $48-million budget has been allocated by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), through its Rural Economic Development Initiative Programme, to train farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) for crops such as yam, hot pepper, pumpkin and callaloo. The farmers have also been awarded Food Handler's Certificates by the Ministry of Health.
Speaking at a handing-over ceremony to recipients of the GAPs and Food Handlers Certificates at his Hope Gardens offices yesterday, portfolio Minister Roger Clarke congratulated the farmers for their "commitment to ensuring that the foods they produce are safe and of good quality".
The minister also explained that 53 plant quarantine produce inspection officers and 73 exporters and middlemen have been trained in the standards and practices required for fresh produce packaging and exporting facilities in order to increase their compliance with FSMA requirements. A total of $30 million is also available to be provided as grant assistance to qualified farmers and exporters. Nine exporters were presented with a total of $10 million of this amount at Tuesday's ceremony.
"Food safety is everybody's responsibility," Minister Clarke said. "And, I wish to laud the work of our farmers and exporters for their commitment and entrepreneurial acumen in providing safe food for our populace and to safeguard our exports to the United States and other markets.
The Agriculture and Fisheries Minister also thanked the partners supporting the ministry's FSMA programme. They include the FSMA National Task Force; The Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture; The United States Department of Agriculture; and The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
The FSMA was signed into law by the President of the United States of America in 2011 to strengthen the US food safety system. Consequently, higher safety standards are being demanded of foods being imported in to that country.
As of January 2012 Jamaican exporters of both processed and unprocessed foods have been facing greater monitoring controls and the Government has led the initiative to ensure compliance with the standards.