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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, 16 December 2016 (CRFM)— There is still a long way to go but experts meeting here Thursday expressed optimism that slow but steady progress was being made toward introducing region-wide laws, rules and regulations intended to make Caribbean fish and seafood not only ready for world trade but safe for Caribbean tables.

The experts, drawn from fisheries, legal affairs, food health and safety and standards agencies across ten countries in the Caribbean Forum of ACP States (CARIFORUM), ended two days of deliberations on model legislation, protocols and guidelines for health and food safety related to fisheries and aquaculture.

“Still a long way to go but making progress,” said Executive Director of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Milton Haughton at the workshop at the Accra Beach Hotel.

Milton Haughton-sps2-141216

Haughton said that following the workshop the draft model legislation is to be reviewed, and followed by another round of consultations held with stakeholders and a legal team before it can be finalised and submitted to regional policy-makers for consideration.

While not offering a timeline for the implementation of the legislation he stressed that improved standards and systems for sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) in fisheries are critical to the region socially and economically.

"We will reap good economic benefits when we have stronger systems that will assure, just not the safety but the quality of the products that we want to export. We will be able to access markets, international markets that we are not now able to access ," Haughton said.

The CRFM said the region’s export trade in fish and seafood trade earns about 315 million US dollars annually – a business that could boom or bust depending on how the region meets the global challenge of SPS standards.

British legal expert Chris Hedley, the project’s lead consultant, said the greatest challenge in drafting the legislation was making it nimble enough to adapt to rules and regulations which are frequently changing in the European Union.

Chris Hedley 12142016

Hedley cautioned that the United Kingdom following Brexit may soon be introducing its own standards as well.

"It is about trying to identify what things change all the time and try to make sure there is a flexible methodology as it were for updating those and making sure we make it as user friendly as possible for the government trying to implement these rules," Hedley said.

After final consultation and approval by the Belize-based CRFM, the region’s fisheries agency, the model laws and policies will then be recommended to CARICOM’s Council for Trade Economic Development (COTED), the regional bloc’s forum of trade ministers, as well as other CARICOM bodies.

The model fisheries and aquaculture SPS legislation would have to be enacted in each exporting nation. During the 18-month-old project, the model legislation has been developed in consultation with policymakers, fisherfolk, processors and other industry players.

Experts said the countdown is on towards the end of voluntary compliance with EU food safety standards, considered among the toughest in the world. Failure to meet EU standards would block CARIFORUM countries from tapping into niche markets overseas and boosting foreign exchange earnings, they stressed.

Investigations by the consultants on the project have exposed large gaps in legally binding protocols managing food safety throughout the region.

The experts found barriers to trade of fish and fisheries products due to inadequate SPS standards; minimal legislative standards for aquaculture; concern about food security and decreasing use of local, fresh seafood – the solution for which improved SPS support is an essential component, the CRFM said.

The two-day meeting was the high point of a European Union-funded project to help CARIFORUM countries introduce laws, regulations and a governance system to guarantee safe seafood for export to EU markets and beyond.

The project, which is being carried out by the Belize-based CRFM and supported by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), aims to ramp up food safety standards to enable CARIFORUM fish exporters to take up trading opportunities under the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The project is financed under the EU’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Project.

 

Published in Press release

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, 13 December 2016 (CRFM)—The fisheries industry on Wednesday moves one step closer to making the Caribbean fish and seafood trade safer and more profitable when experts meet in Barbados to finalise a raft of model regional laws, policies and procedures.

 

The Caribbean region’s ability to cash in on a potentially lucrative, international export trade in fish and seafood – already worth 315 million US dollars a year – is being held back by gaps in sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) standards, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) said.

 

But the experts, who are wrapping up an 18-month-long project to investigate fish handling policies and design a new seafood safety regime for the region’s fish and fishery products, are set to introduce a new regime for SPS measures in CARIFORUM states.

 

“The continued viability and further development of the fishing industry of the CRFM region face several challenges, some of which are related to inadequate development of SPS systems to suit the specific needs of fisheries and aquaculture operations,” said CRFM Executive Director Milton Haughton ahead of the two-day meeting.

 

Haughton said the experts are meeting to bring forward work begun a year ago on preparing model legislation.

 

The meeting will unveil model fisheries and aquaculture SPS legislation that is to be presented to CARICOM with the intention of being enacted in each exporting nation. The model legislation has been developed in consultation and communication with policymakers, fisherfolk, processors and other industry players.

 

Compliance with globally established SPS standards is voluntary – a worrisome development that experts say is stopping member states from tapping into niche markets overseas and boosting foreign exchange earnings.

 

Investigations by international consultants on the project exposed large gaps in legally binding protocols managing food safety throughout the region.

 

The experts found barriers to trade of fish and fisheries products due to inadequate SPS standards; minimal legislative standards for aquaculture; concern about food security and decreasing use of local, fresh seafood – the solution for which improved SPS support is an essential component, the CRFM said.

 

With the impact of global environmental changes including climate change on the Caribbean, the regional fisheries agency said there is need for improved management and monitoring of the natural environment that sustains fisheries and aquaculture production.

 

The meeting is to be streamed live daily for regional media, industry figures, officials and anyone interested in fisheries and the safety and health of fish and seafood in the region, the CRFM said. The proceedings may be followed on the CRFM’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/TheCRFM.

 

Government officials from each CRFM member state are to review and endorse the final documents to allow final approval. These will then be recommended to CARICOM’s Council for Trade Economic Development (COTED), the regional bloc’s forum of trade ministers, as well as other CARICOM bodies.

 

The two-day meeting is the high point of a European Union-funded project to help CARIFORUM countries introduce laws, regulations and a governance system to guarantee safe seafood for export to EU markets and beyond.

 

The project, which is being carried out by the Belize-based CRFM and supported by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), aims to ramp up food safety standards to enable CARIFORUM fish exporters to take up trading opportunities under the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The project is financed under the EU’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures Project.

 

Published in Press release

Rainforest Seafoods is a leading Caribbean producer and exporter based in Jamaica, with operations in Belize. It exports safe seafood to the EU. (Photo: Rainforest Seafoods)

 

Belize City, Friday, 27 May 2016 (CRFM)—Caribbean economies are poised to benefit from a region-wide initiative to expand seafood market share, through the implementation of food safety measures to enable countries to get a bigger piece of the global pie, worth an estimated US$130 billion annually. Caribbean countries, including the Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, are now capitalizing on a coordinated approach to broaden the gateway to the growing market. CARIFORUM (CARICOM and the Dominican Republic) now exports about US$400 million worth of fish and seafood annually.

Belize and Jamaica are two Caribbean seafood exporters already tapping into markets controlled by the European Union (EU)—a tough market to access because of stringent standards which require that countries have systems in place to ensure that their exports are not only safe for consumption but also free from harmful pests and pathogens.

In the case of Belize, which has traditionally exported shrimp to the EU, it is moving to export conch to that market for the first time in 2016, according to Endhir Sosa, Senior Food Safety Inspector, Belize.

Sosa was among the eighteen professionals from CARIFORUM who recently received management training on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) in Iceland. The training was offered under the capacity-building component of an EU-sponsored project to implement SPS Measures under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) regime. The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) are collaborating to implement the fisheries component of the project.

 

Demystifying SPS

Sosa broke down the meaning of this very technical term, which could just as well be the acronym for ‘safe and profitable seafood’: “In a nutshell, it’s just a series of procedures, of guidelines, of requirements, that one needs to implement to basically prove that what they are producing is safe,” the food safety expert commented.

“Confidence is what is key! It is what everybody seeks when it comes to the purchase and consumption of food products,” he said, adding that, “SPS is one of those routes where you can establish that confidence in your product.”

BAHA monitors seafood processing plants

BAHA monitors seafood processed for trade (Photo: BAHA)

 

Sosa notes that, “Once you have an established SPS system in place and it is vetted and it’s shown to be functional, that will open markets locally, regionally and internationally."

This has been the case for Belize: “When BAHA [the Belize Agricultural Health Authority] first started in 2000, you could count the number of countries we were exporting to on your hand. It wasn’t more than 5 to 7. Today, thanks to SPS, thanks to the confidence that our SPS program has put into our products, not only fish, the markets have increased almost three-fold. Now we have a little over 30 markets,” Sosa said.

 

Building SPS capacity

Chairman of the Caribbean Fisheries Forum, Denzil Roberts, who is also the Chief Fisheries Officer in Guyana, notes that: “The fisheries sector within the CARIFORUM region continues to play an important role in rural development, food and nutrition security, income generation and foreign exchange earnings. However, it must be recognized that there is a paucity of skilled personnel within the region to further develop the sector in keeping with the emerging challenges.”

The intensive two-week training course recently held in Iceland served to help fill this knowledge gap in the Caribbean.

Susan Singh-Renton, the CRFM’s Deputy Executive Director, notes that, “The CRFM/UNU-FTP SPS Management Course has been very successful in achieving its objective of exposing CARIFORUM Fisheries and Agricultural Health and Food Safety experts to the key lessons and best practices of the Icelandic fishing industry in producing safe and wholesome fishery products of an international standard.”

trainees in wrap up

Thor Asgeirsson, Deputy Programme Director at UNU-FTP,  talks with CARIFORUM SPS professionals in wrap-up session (Photo: CRFM)

 

She added that, “At the close of the course, participants reflected on and also documented how they would apply what they had learned to improve fisheries SPS management in their home countries.”

Jeannette Mateo, Director of Fisheries Resources at the Dominican Council for Fisheries and Aquaculture (CODOPESCA) in the Dominican Republic, suggested that nationals in her country, such as biologists, inspectors, fisheries officers and consumer protection agents, should be trained in basic concepts of SPS.

For his part, Roberts hopes that the trainees will immediately begin to impart what they have learned to others in their national networks. Roberts furthermore hopes that trainees will implement internationally recognized safety standards for seafood, thereby safeguarding the health of the local population while ensuring market access to meet global market demands.

Singh-Renton said that the CRFM will also strive to do its part to provide follow-up regional support for improved SPS management for the region's fishing industries, including facilitating continued networking among the course participants.

Gatekeepers fight against food fraud

One of the more frequent but often overlooked problems within the Caribbean is food fraud and mislabeling,” notes Dr. Wintorph Marsden, Senior Veterinary Officer in Jamaica’s Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries.

Marsden said that Jamaica is considered a major transshipment hub for fish and fishery products to the wider Caribbean region, and so the burden is on Jamaica, as a first point of entry, to implement a system of verification of products entering its food chain.

To combat food fraud, it is an absolute necessity to introduce traceability, said Marsden. This can now be done electronically, with modern systems of recording, such as the use barcodes, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and other tracking media within the production chain.

In the Dominican Republic, Mateo’s job is to review all the supporting documentation for seafood imports and exports. She has observed, though, that, “Some of these documents might have statements to make the consumers believe that they are getting a high-quality product while they are actually getting products with less quality and deliberate mislabeling.”

An example, she said, is fish from the genus Pangasius, a catfish primarily sourced from the Asian market, which is being sold cheaply in the region and marketed at times as “grouper”—not only at supermarkets but also at some restaurants.

 

Pangasius sometimes passed off as grouper in Caribbean

Vietnam catfish often passed off as grouper in the Caribbean (Photo: VASEP)

 

“While in Iceland, I learned that deliberate mislabeling of food, the substitution of products with cheaper alternatives, and false statements about the origin of foods, are all food fraud,” Mateo said.

“This is relevant to the Dominican Republic and the Caribbean, where imported fish are in some cases marketed at lower prices than the local ones, not only due to the lower production cost of fish products such as tilapia and Pangasius (catfish – sold as ‘basa’ or ‘swai’) in comparison with those produced in the country, but also because of unfair practices in trade,” Mateo said.

She said that as a result of the Iceland training, the Dominican Republic is now in the final stage of building an improved national SPS system for fishery and aquaculture products which was initiated with the support of the government of Chile.

 

Safe and healthy food also vital at home

 

local seafood

Buyers opt for local snapper or imported seafood from the same freezer at a Belize supermarket (Photo: CRFM)

 

Whereas the move to implement SPS measures was originally focused on export trade, regional experts also indicate that they are vital to food safety and health even within our region.

“The Caribbean is known to be a huge importer of food products,” Sosa noted. “We have to look after our population, we have to look after the health of our people, we have to look after the health of our environment and our agricultural products; and thus SPS—although at this point it is mostly the industrialized countries that are pushing it, that are requiring it—should be really and truly across the board.”

Science-based risk assessment and risk analysis of imports are also key in protecting vital agriculture and fisheries industries.

“We have been mandated with the task of being the gatekeepers when it comes to food safety and agricultural health and we take that responsibility very seriously. Sometimes the public will get angry with us, because they truly don’t understand why we are doing this. ‘Why can’t I bring this across the border?’ But the realization is that if a disease [is introduced], it could potentially destroy an entire industry—whether it be, for example, bringing across poultry with avian influenza, or bringing in diseased shrimp—it could wipe out an entire multi-million-dollar industry,” Sosa warned.

 

Positioning small producers for export

 

Grenada fish bacon for export

 

Southern Fishermen's Cooperative in Grenada adds value to fish to produce smoked bacon for export to regional and international markets (Photo: CRFM)

 

Sosa noted that SPS measures were initially geared towards industrial markets but now they are encouraging small producers to position themselves for export by implementing SPS Measures.

“They might not have the finance to construct an elaborate facility, but we can start with the basics,” said Sosa, pointing to “good manufacturing practices and the sanitation standard operating procedures,” which, he said, would build confidence in products from even small producers.

More importantly, he said, implementing SPS measures is the first step that producers will need to make to even think about trading on the world market.

 

 

You may access the VIMEO version of the video here.

Published in Press release

Information to Vendors

1. Introduction

1.1 Vendors are invited to submit a Technical and a Financial Proposal, for services required for the development and maintenance of a website for the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Project. The proposal will be the basis for a contract with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

1.2 The assignment shall be implemented in accordance with the scope outlined in the Terms of Reference. Please note that: (i) the costs of preparing the proposals are not reimbursable as a direct cost of the assignment; and (ii) IICA is not bound to accept any of the proposals submitted.

1.3 IICA’s policy requires that vendors provide professional, objective, impartial advice and at all times, hold IICA’s interests paramount without any consideration for future work, and strictly avoid conflicts with other assignments or their own corporate interests. Vendors shall not be hired for any assignment that would be in conflict with their prior or current obligations to other clients, or that may place them in a position of not being able to carry out the assignment in the best interest of IICA.

2. Preparation of Technical and Financial Proposals

2.1 Vendors are requested to submit two separate proposals using Standard English – a Technical Proposal and a Financial Proposal.

2.2 In preparing the Proposals, vendors are expected to examine the information constituting this Expression of Interest (EOI) in detail. Material deficiencies in providing the information requested may result in rejection of a proposal.

2.3 While preparing the Technical and Financial Proposals, vendors must give particular attention to the following:

(i) If a vendor considers that it does not have all the expertise for the assignment, it may obtain a full range of expertise by associating with individual vendor (s) and/or other firms or entities in a joint venture or sub-consultancy, as appropriate.

2.4 The Technical Proposal shall provide the following information:

(i) A brief description of the vendor’s recent experience on comparable assignments

(ii) A detailed description of services and work plan/schedule for performing the assignment

(iii) Recent CVs of principal/key staff member (s)

(iv) A detailed description of the proposed methodology

2.5 The Financial Proposal should list all costs associated with the assignment. If appropriate, these costs should be broken down by activity.

3. Submission, Receipt, and Opening of Proposals

3.1 The completed Technical and Financial Proposals must be sent as PDF files via email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and copied to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; with the subject heading of “Website Development and Maintenance - 10th EDF SPS Measures Project”. The deadline for receipt is 4:30 p.m. (Eastern Caribbean Time) on Friday 15th May, 2015. Submissions will not be considered unless all the elements identified above are received by the stipulated deadline.

4. Proposal Evaluation

4.1 A team will evaluate the proposals on the basis of their responsiveness to the Terms of Reference.

4.2 After the evaluation of quality is completed, IICA shall notify those vendors whose proposals did not meet the minimum qualifying criteria or were considered non-responsive to the EOI and Terms of Reference.

4.3 The successful vendor selected will undertake discussions with the SPS Project team, pertaining to the Technical and Financial Proposals and the proposed methodology (work plan).

5. Award of Contract

5.1 The contract will be awarded following discussions.

5.2 The vendor is expected to commence the assignment on the date specified in the schedule.

6. Confidentiality

6.1 Information relating to evaluation of proposals and recommendations concerning awards shall not be disclosed to the vendors who submitted the proposals or to other persons not officially concerned with the process, until the successful vendor has been notified that it has been awarded the contract.

 

Kindly see attachment for more information about this call for expression of interest: Website Development and Maintenance of the 10th EDF Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Project

Published in EU - EPA SPS Project

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