Gov’t working on additional legislation to strengthen Guyana’s food safety systems – Min. Mustapha

says updated protocols needed to resume export of catfish to the US being finalized

The government has, since taking office, made headway with strengthening Guyana’s food system.

This is according to Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, who disclosed that additional legislations are being developed with the objective of establishing a sound and comprehensive national and regional legislative framework for several areas in agriculture.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha

The minister made the disclosure during opening remarks at the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) and World Health Organisation’s (WHO) five-day workshop for the assessment of the Guyana national food control systems using the FAO/WHO food control system assessment tool.

“This year we’ll also see a revolution in the legislative framework of our country in strengthening the legislative agenda with the objective of establishing a sound and comprehensive national and regional legislative framework for plant and animal health, food safety, and fisheries. Model bills, protocols, measures, and guidelines were developed recently through extensive consultations with various stakeholders. Presently, we are looking at amendments to strengthen the Food Safety Bill, after which, it will be taken to the National Assembly for consideration,” Minister Mustapha disclosed.

Further, the minister said that Guyana has partnered with international agencies and other stakeholders to develop three additional regulations aimed at moving Guyana’s food system forward.

“We’ve also collaborated with the Inter American Institute for Corporation on Agriculture (IICA) and other stakeholders to develop three additional pieces of legislation so that we can strengthen our local food system. Those regulations are the Aquaculture Regulations to accompany the Aquaculture Bill, the General Plant Health Regulation, and the Crops and Livestock Registration, Identification and Traceability Bill. These are very important to move the food system forward,” the minister added.

Headway made with catfish export ban to the US

Minister Mustapha also took the opportunity to update the participants on the progress made thus far by the government in its efforts to restore the export market of catfish species to the United States.

“We are working very aggressively to resume the exportation of catfish to the United States. So far, we’ve met most of the protocols in terms of the fisheries regulation. We’ve updated it and very shortly that will be published in the Official Gazette. The EPA is also presently working with other stakeholders to conduct testing of the waters where these fishes are being harvested and the inspection manual is almost completed in terms of being updated so it’s safe to say that we’ve made significant progress over the last few months to ensure that we are once again in compliance with the established regulations so that our country can once again export these products to North America,” Minister Mustapha said.

The workshop, which will run from January 24th to 28th, stems from a prior assessment that identified the need for capacity building to strengthen key areas within Guyana’s current food safety system.

The aim of the workshop is to commence the process of implementing the FAO/WHO assessment tool which seeks to assist countries in assessing the effectiveness of their food control system, regardless of its level of maturity.

The tool proposes a harmonized, objective, and consensual basis to analyze the performance of Guyana’s national food system to identify priority areas of improvement and plan sequential and coordinated activities to reach expected outcomes.

Starting from Monday last, 64 officers from the  Guyana Food Safety Authority, the Environmental Health Unit, the Guyana Revenue Authority, the Carnegie School of Home Economics along with other agencies within the Ministry of Agriculture will be provided with training kits and technical advice from international experts who will lead the training sessions on how to conduct a food control assessment and analyze the effectiveness of the safety control system in Guyana.

After the training, participants will conduct the assessment with the guidance of an FAO expert and led by the Food Safety Authority. The assessment will focus on the safety of the food that comes to the consumer from producers, importers, processors, farmers, fisherfolk, etc. They will examine the extent to which the current food safety processes are working and help us look for gaps and weaknesses and identify measures for improvement.

The results from the assessment will then be developed into a strategic plan to systematically and continuously upgrade the food safety system.

A strong and advanced national food safety system will be able to improve Guyana’s international trade relations, open new markets for local farmers, fishers, processors, and producers while ensuring the availability of healthy food for all thereby building consumers’ confidence.