(Extracted from the Observer – June 3, 2016)
THE institutional framework to drive Jamaica’s food exports is being strengthened through the accreditation of several laboratories under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
The European Union (EU)-funded project is being managed by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
Project cycle management specialist in the PIOJ’s EU Unit, Marjorie Stair, said EPA provides support in the form of staff training, laboratory equipment and upgrading of facilities.
“This will improve Jamaica’s food safety system, which will help to increase exports through direct overseas investments,” she noted.
She explained that eight labs have been upgraded under EPA, with several already ISO 17025 accredited, while others have taken critical steps to meeting the requirements for certification.
Stair said that through the work being undertaken, Jamaica has gained competitive advantage on the global market, and more diverse exports of agriculture and agro-processed products will now make their way to EU markets as a result of EPA.
ISO 17025 accreditation is the formal recognition of a lab’s competence to perform specified tests.
The microbiology and chemistry laboratories of the Bureau of Standards Jamaica and the Pesticide Research Laboratory of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, are ISO 17025 certified, while the microbiology, residue testing, and parasitological laboratories of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries are awaiting accreditation.
The ministry’s plant virology and molecular testing laboratories have been upgraded, while work is underway at the Plant Pathology Laboratory.
The EPA agreement was signed in 2008 between the EU and 15 Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) states, and is aimed at boosting trade between Europe and the member countries.