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Contact: Richmond C. Felix

Monday, March 25, 2002 - The Windward Islands Fresh Produce Trade Project is designed to facilitate major improvements in the quality of non traditional fresh produce through the development of standards, legislation, institutional strengthening and the creation of a comprehensive inspection and inspectorate programmes for fresh produce trading.

On Monday a national consultation was held for farmers, agro processors, retailers, exporters and government personnel to give them an understanding of what has transpired within the various components of the project since it took off about a year and a half ago and to get feedback for inclusion into the implementation stage. The aim is to produce recommendations for the strengthening existing systems in the fresh produce sector and to make St. Lucia more economically competitive. It is hoped that standards will be developed to assist with harmonised fresh produce legislation, the provision of timely and relevant information for traders and to rationalise the inspection and certificating processes.

The Quality Control in Fresh Produce Project has received funding to the tune of Canadian $257,000, most of which is coming from the Caribbean Regional Human Resource Development Program for Economic Competitiveness (CPEC). Daniel Atherton Senior Project Officer with CEPEC revealed to participants at the consultation “By the time the (initial stage of the) project was through product standards were reviewed and developed and are now operational to facilitate international trade. We saw considerable strengthened bureau of standards in all four countries. There was the development of a website and relevant database for the facilitation of trade in the region’s fresh produce and we saw efforts made in the development of proper legislative frame works in the three other countries to ensure smooth trading and the resolution of any conflict that may arise.”

According to Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senator Calixte George, the production of non traditional crops for local consumption and export has increased over the past six years and purchases made in supermarkets by consumers, and directly by the hospitality sector and the St. Lucia Marketing Board have also increased significantly, indicating that there is definitely demand for local agriculture produce.

Senator George said that in its quest to enhance food security, increase agricultural productivity and income capacity for those in the agricultural community, his Ministry has faced a number of constraints especial in the areas of quality management and irregular supply. He believes that collaboration and standardization are paramount in overcoming those challenges. “We will provide assistance to the local produce markets through a collaborative effort with the bureau of standards and the relevant local government agencies to standardise the sale of agricultural produce at the various outlets. Secondly we will seek to establish a national brand for St. Lucia’s agricultural products, which will take advantage of the country’s numerous marketable properties and allow for standardisation of our exports,” said George.

Minister for Commerce, Tourism, Investment and Consumer Affairs, Hon. Philip J. Pierre said that the partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Bureau of Standards is vital. He is of the view that St. Lucia’s agricultural potential can increase export earnings and generate rural development. A vibrant agricultural system he believes forms the primary pillar in government’s strategy for overall economic growth and development. He cautions however that standards and quality cannot be compromised since competition is stiff, even within the region.

Minister Pierre said that government has already provided the institutional and policy framework to ensure that local produce can achieve and sustain the quality demanded in the export and local markets, and particularly in the tourism industry. “Economic linkages especially in the WTO environment cannot be legislated or made to happen by governmental directive, essentially it is purely businessmen and business factors that determine the extent and depth of economic linkages, such decisions are ultimately influenced by quality, by supply and by the way the various products and services can compete in the local regional and international markets,” said Pierre.

During the consultation presentations were made by resource personnel from the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture focusing on the theme “Increasing the Competitiveness of the Fresh Produce Trade through Quality Control and Inspection.”


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