Mandeville Weekly News

EPA HELPING FARMERS AND FOOD PROCESSORS TO BREAK INTO EUROPEAN MARKET

Posted by SR (riley) on Oct 19 2016 at 4:53 PM
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Organic farmer Fonyije Chigozili is hoping to break into the European market.  She has benefited from valuable assistance to achieve her goal under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), being implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).

Under the programme, local fresh produce, processed sauces and mixes have duty-free quota access to markets in Europe, tapping into a market of more than 450 million high-income consumers. Ms. Chigozili, who is a member of the Jamaica Organic Agriculture Movement (JOAM), was among several farmers, food processors and exporters, who recently benefited from capacity-building training under phase one of the initiative (EPA 1).

The series of workshops and seminars was developed in collaboration with the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA), Jamaica Exporters’ Association (JEA), National Certification Body of Jamaica (NCBJ), and the Plant Quarantine/Produce Inspection Division of the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries. The training, held in Trelawny, Kingston and Manchester, focused on preparing participants for trade opportunities. It examined technical barriers to trade and regulatory requirements for food exports to the European Union (EU), Canada and CARICOM countries.

Emphasis was placed on areas that will impact and enhance the ability of stakeholders to contribute meaningfully to preparations for international trade negotiations and how to maximise the benefits.Sessions on organic farming, fresh food and animal products, as well as how to package and process these products according to international standards, were included; so too were lessons on how manufacturers could build competitiveness.

Ms. Chigozili said that she learnt a lot from the training.  “Months ago, I did not know much about EPA.  I heard about it, but I could not make the linkage to see how I, as a small organic farmer, would utilise the agreement.  Fast-track to the EPA project workshop and I have learnt so much about bottling, packaging and so forth, that I feel I know enough to start exporting,” she said.

In expressing gratitude for the training, Ms. Chigozili explains she was only now beginning to realise that there are a lot of steps involved in trading to enter the various markets.   “It will benefit Jamaican farmers. It will take us a while to comply, but we now have the information. We need to make sure that we have the certification required for trading under the EPA,” she says.

The EPA, which was signed in 2008, is a partnership between Europe and Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) states.
  To tap into the market, Jamaican producers and exporters must commit to the rights, obligations and provisions in the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT).

Export Manager at the JMA, Mrs. Eileen Hooper-Donaldson, says her agency has recognised the impact that the EPA will have on the manufacturing industry and so it has taken steps to train business operators.Mrs. Hooper-Donaldson informs that the first series of EPA project workshops and seminars were conducted in three parishes during August 2016 and a number of small and large business operators attended, after the series of training, manufacturers should be able to identify labelling requirements relating to sodium, sugar and allergens.

Mrs. Hooper-Donaldson says some key players within the industry require training to understand the logistics, given that aspects of the trade agreement address maintaining and increasing the capacity to protect health, safety, consumers, and the environment, pointing out that standards are important internationally and many producers in the Jamaican food industry will need to understand the legal and regulatory requirements of the market they are targeting for export.

The purpose of the EPA I Capacity Building Project is the creation of an enabling environment to support increased compliance of Jamaican agriculture and agribusiness exports with international quality standards.  The objective is to facilitate increased and more diversified exports into EU and other global markets.

EPA II, which is under way, has an expanded scope that addresses supply side issues for exports.  Stakeholders in the coffee, sauces and spice industries are to benefit from support to boost exports in accordance with the priorities of the National Export Strategy.

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