#2 MAY 2022

Modernising the Caribbean's SPS Regulatory Environment:

The Role of CAHFSA

An Interview with Dr. Garvin Peters

Chief Executive Officer, Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA)

What is CAHFSA’s mandate and core activities in the region?

Our mandate comes from the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which speaks to the establishment and support of a regime of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures that are effective and efficient for CARICOM Member States. Article 74 of the Revised Treaty also refers to the harmonisation of laws and administrative practices with respect to SPS measures.

CAHFSA has three main objectives: (i) to establish an effective and efficient regime of SPS measures in support of the community, (ii) to provide regional and national support to the community in their establishment, management and operation of their national Agricultural Health and Food Safety (AHFS) systems as they relate to SPS measures, and (iii) to execute on behalf of those countries such actions and activities that can be more effectively and efficiently executed through a regional mechanism.

CAHFSA’s core functions include the promotion of the development and use of regional and international SPS measures, standards, and guidelines; strengthening of the legislative framework with respect to SPS measures; and monitoring and evaluation of national programmes in relation to animal health, plant health and food safety systems. We are also responsible for harmonisation of technical procedures in relation to matters such as quarantine systems and their protocols, surveillance, laboratory analysis, with reference specifically to laboratory infrastructure, and the safe management and use of agrochemicals and other chemical inputs.

What role does CAHFSA play in the effective implementation of the 11th EDF SPS Measures Project?

CAHFSA as part of the Technical Advisory Committee governing the project is involved in discussions as it relates to the planning, programming, and execution of the project. CAHFSA also has responsibility for management of one of the project’s activities to develop the Agricultural Health and Food Safety Policy. CAHFSA is the main agency responsible for the technical oversight of this activity. We will also play a role in the other activities such as the AHFS coordination and laboratory strengthening actions.

Who are CAHFSA’s stakeholders and how do you anticipate they will benefit from the Project?

CAHFSA’s stakeholders are at various levels of operation throughout CARICOM, generally our stakeholders are the Member States who are signatories to the CAHFSA Agreement. Our work is directed towards enhancing and developing that regime of SPS measures to be applied across CARICOM Member States. Within those states our primary stakeholders are the agencies that work with the SPS Agreement ensuring compliance such as Ministries of Agriculture and focal points for international standard bodies such as Codex and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC).

In addition, our stakeholders include the private sector such as farmers, processors, and others that play a part along the value chain. We interact with our private sector stakeholders to ensure that SPS measures are applied along the entire value chain in accordance with the international standards, so they can be in compliance with market requirements required to facilitate trade and produce safe food for local consumption and for export.

Can you tell us about the Regional and National AHFS Framework that has been developed?

The regional policy and action plan will contribute to the overall strategic goal of enhancing the regional AHFS system to achieve the appropriate level of protection of human, plant and animal health and life as well as veterinary public and environmental health, improved food and nutrition security, and optimum facilitation of intra-regional and international agri-food trade.

The policy addresses regional AHFS systemic issues and urgent regional challenges and includes the mechanisms to gather and use data covering all potential sources of threat to the health of humans, animals, and plants in the region.

The Policy has four specific objectives including:

  • To enhance the early detection of and timely response to regional AHFS threats through regional cooperation and coordination of SPS measures and AHFS actions in an integrated and comprehensive way along the entire food chain;

  • To improve regional AHFS decision making through targeted gathering, analysis and use of data and science-based governance;

  • To promote the use of modern approaches and technologies in the assessment and management of regional AHFS risks and

  • To ensure sustainability of human, animal, and plant health and/or life and environmental health.

The Policy also has an action plan which outlines the concrete measures to achieving those goals in a period of 4 years and is a vital component of the ongoing long-term phased strategic process.

The national framework has the same basic elements as the regional policy, and we hope to pilot the framework in 2022.

What do you see as the potential impact of the regional and national AHFS policy framework that has been established?

Having a regional AHFS policy is paramount for guiding the direction and operations of SPS systems in the region; so, this is an important development. In addition, we have also developed a national framework that each Member State can use to develop their national AHFS policy to guide their activities. It is important that we have the coordination and harmonisation of AHFS systems as it will significantly contribute to facilitating compliance with international standards and requirements. Ultimately, a stronger AHFS regulatory environment will benefit the region in that we will be able to have safe goods to consume and improved compliance with the requirements for export. These benefits will accrue as we complete other aspects of the project.

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