“Get into a position where we trust each other,” Barton Clarke, Trinidad and Tobago’s FAO representative told participants at the Hunger, Food insecurity and Malnutrition in the Caribbean workshop being held as part of Caribbean Week of Agriculture on Monday.
The day one session examined, among other issues, “current and topical issues on food and nutrition security in the Caribbean”. Clarke is adamant that the Caribbean has to blame itself for obvious double standards when applying sanitary and phyto-sanitary standards to inter-regional trading in foods and other produce.
“When we got to export to the United Stated we are precise, we’ re diligent, we don’t bend the rules but we don’t necessarily apply the same yard sticks when we have to export to our Caribbean neighbours.”
There needs to be adherence to regulations and stipulations but also flexibility and diligence within Caricom, Clarke believes.
“We often accept anything from the United States, but are not prepared to accept anything from our neighbours…here is what I want to suggest… we need to get into a position where we trust each other for example, Australia,, New Zealand and some of the neighbouring countries, in recognition of their limited capacity have arrived at a mechanism in which their respect the work done by each other on behalf of the group, this relates to pesticides and importation of pesticides outside of that region… New Zealand would look at the hydro carbon and do the analysis and on that based respective board approve the use of those pesticides.”
That approval would see the importation of pesticides approved for used in countries in that block. Clarke sees the Caribbean adopting a similar mechanism.
“A decision had been made years ago that we would recognise Guyana, as the source of beef for the Caribbean, but when it came to implementation, we were at a lost because we didn’t feel that Guyana had the capacity to guarantee that there were no breaches to the sanitary and phyto systems, the laboratory systems were found to be wanting, there were not adequate people patrolling the borders, to ensure that a cow that walks across from Brazil doesn’t have foot and mouth disease…we need to have a mechanism to share responsibilities …”
Clarke opined that the rules of engagement as it relate to phyto- sanitary measures falls in variably because of limited capacity in the Region. The Trinidad and Tobago FAO representative used the forum to call for the removal of “artificial barriers” that is preventing collaboration that could see a more nutrition secured Region.