The Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS) has officially launched its fuel pump verification programme, thereby joining the ranks of some other CROSQ Member States.

In April this year, the Metrology Act came into effect and the Bureau of Standards proposed its first steps for implementation of the Act to be the establishment of a national Fuel Pump Verification Service.

At the launch of the programme a few months later, Chairman of the Antigua and Barbuda Standards Council, Mr. Cottrille George said: “This journey for developing the nation’s quality infrastructure employs metrology or measurement  science as one of the main vehicles for  promoting  fairness and equity in trade, business excellence and  consumer confidence. 

“It is for this reason that we celebrated the proclamation of the Metrology Act in April this year. This Act gives credence to the Bureau’s mandate to ensure the accuracy of weighing and measuring instruments used in trade. The  practice of checking, because  it is mandated by law, is  known as  legal Metrology, and will soon become a  regular consideration and /or  characteristic  of  any  form of business for  which earnings or  profit are derived from measurements  based  activities.”

The journey to this stage involved Bureau of Standards personnel working with the fuel suppliers and retailers to perform checks/tests on the fuel dispensers for accuracy to ensure that the pumps are delivering correctly the stated metered quantities. This will ensure that consumers are receiving the quantities purchased and also retailers are not losing product due to faulty dispensing.

Having done the necessary preliminary checks, all fuel dispensers that have “passed the test” will be affixed with a blue validation sticker providing the logo and name of the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards and the expiration date of the authentication of the specific fuel dispenser nozzle.  

Consumers are being educated to look for these validation stickers and verifications will be carried out hereafter, in accordance with the provisions of the Metrology Act and Regulations. Lessons learnt will be shared with regional metrologists through CROSQ’s Caribbean Metrology Network (CARIMET) and that is recognized by SIM, the Inter-American Metrology System.

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Services are the largest component of both developed and developing country economies and constitute major inputs into the production of most “tangible” goods. 

This wasn’t the case only a few decades ago, when a proposal to bring services into the multilateral trading system was met with opposition, with many countries worried about “rules” undermining their ability to pursue national policy objectives and constraining their regulatory powers. The creation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), however, proved to be a landmark achievement by allowing “a high degree of flexibility within the framework of the rules and market access commitments”. The industrial sector is no longer leading growth; services are now recognized as a swifter and more lucrative alternative. 

The economy of Antigua and Barbuda – like that of many small island developing states – is services-driven. Tourism and tourism-related services are responsible for 85% of all foreign exchange earnings and account for over two-thirds of GDP. In its efforts to galvanize economic development, the government is pursuing investment in niche markets, including but not limited to tourism, international financial services, offshore education, and information and communication technologies. These are some of the fastest-growing and most rapidly changing service sectors. The ISO New Rights Pilot Programme1) has allowed Antigua and Barbuda to participate in, and influence the development of, International Standards in such areas as tourism, management consultancy and quality management systems. 

Service trade is the new frontier. Service providers consistently need to meet and anticipate customer requirements, while providing them with the service they want “right the first time” and every time thereafter – eliminating the need for rework or replace. The development of the “service economy” further underscores the need for standards. 

As a result of the global importance of services, ISO has organized a workshop to be held in June 2016, in Geneva, Switzerland, to obtain feedback from relevant stakeholders on the need for International Standards on services.

The event explores how ISO standards can help to design, assess and measure service excellence, benefitting both businesses and consumers. The outputs and outcomes of the workshop will help the service sector realize its core values such as social responsibility, service excellence, collaboration/consensus building, reliability and competence as it strives to meet customers’ needs and expectations. 

Without a doubt, standardization will support the services sector by increasing its competitiveness and market access – necessary to boost the sector’s contribution to economic growth and development. Service standards will enable transparency and comparability of services, promote reliability and effectiveness as well as improve efficiency and quality. They will also enhance consumer confidence in services and service providers alike. 

Given the multifaceted contribution of services to the global economy and trade, it is critically important for service providers to have a “standards platform” from which they are able to supply quality services, while still ensuring innovation, technology transfer and differentiation among competitors. And what better forum for continual improvement than ISO?

 - The above text is an article published in ISO Focus, May-June 2016 Issue 116, featuring Director of the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards, Mrs. Dianne Lalla-Rodrigues and the country of Antigua and Barbuda.

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A major consultation on the quality of goods and services in Antigua and Barbuda on April 12, 2016, is expected to be the first step toward the establishment of a National Quality Awards for the country.

In a process being led by the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS), and facilitated by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), stakeholders from across sectors including tourism, health, agriculture, business, as well as quality infrastructure development, will gather at the Antigua and Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute for a day-long consultation on quality-related matters.

The objective of the consultation is to examine the feasibility of introducing a National Quality Awards to the country that will recognise companies and organisations for their dedication to running quality focussed operations and services, and their commitment to producing high quality products for the country and global markets. It will be addressed and opened by Minister of Trade, Industry, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Honourable, Mr. E. P. Chet Greene at 9 a.m. The consultation runs until 4 p.m.

It is funded through the European Union’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) programme, being implemented in the Caribbean by CROSQ, alongside INDOCAL in the Dominican Republic, and managed by the German Metrology Institute (PTB).

Mrs. Dianne Rodrigues, Director of the ABBS, which is serving as host for this meeting, noted that "the thrust of the Bureau is to offer services that can help promote a culture of quality in the country, and as such this dialogue was a step in that direction".

“We are very interested in what the various sectors have to say about this programme on which we are embarking, and we are hoping that stakeholders can see the value in what we are trying to create and actively get on board and support the process. This initiative will be very beneficial for us all,” said the Director.

"A National Quality Award could help improve the standard and quality of products and services being offered in Antigua and Barbuda, and that is for both the local and foreign markets. It has the potential as well, to be a major branding initiative for the country which is focussing its attention on improving industries and sectors like tourism, agriculture, and health services. One way of getting the kind of growth a country would want is to look at the quality of what is on offer," said Ms. Latoya Burnham, Technical Officer, Communication and Information with CROSQ.

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The second national dialogue on quality infrastructure (QI) came off in Antigua last month, providing the Antigua and Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS) and local officials with a clear picture of the state of the agriculture sector as relates quality and standards.

Held at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium on November 13, 2014, Director of the ABBS, Mrs. Dianne Lalla-Rodrigues, welcomed participants to the forum, while Officer-in-Charge of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality, Russell Frankly, gave a brief overview of the organisation’s role as facilitators, and its relationship with the German Metrology Institute (PTB), which is the sponsor of the RQI 4 and 10th EDF Technical Barriers to Trade projects.

Mr. Franklyn outlined the importance of the quality infrastructure dialogue, as well as the role of agriculture in the region’s survival.  He highlighted that in Antigua trade in agricultural goods was 2% - the lowest in the region, and that 62% of that country’s GDP was made up by services. Notwithstanding, there is potential for agriculture and agro-processed goods, he stated, adding that the quality of goods was preventing the region from getting into certain markets.

The acting head of CROSQ also indicated that Quality Infrastructure consultations would be held throughout the region with the intention of creating an action plan to address the region’s QI issues. The first consultation was held in Bahamas in October.

The Director of Agriculture, Mr. Jedidiah Maxime stressed that quality and standards are used to meet buyer requirements in countries where economies rely on exports. Antigua and Barbuda is a net importer and traditionally has not place much importance on standards.  However, the changing global dynamics has resulted in the country becoming an exporter in tourism-related areas, he pointed out.

Mr. Maxime added that quality and standards must not only be an issue of exports but national pride. He noted that a food production policy has been adopted by the Antigua and Barbuda government and an action plan is being developed to implement the policy.

Additionally, the Director indicated that the Ministry of Agriculture is collaborating with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to look into setting up a national commission for sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) areas. One objective of this is to champion issues relating to SPS which have to be adhered to. Issues, particularly those at the level of production, including record keeping, food safety issues and the adaptation of farmers to Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), were identified as critical.

Senator Collin James, Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Commerce and Industry and Sports, highlighted reasons for requirements in trade such as food safety, environment and health. He stated that there was a need for technical assistance to small countries in relation to technical barriers to trade and SPS in conformity, which was necessary to access markets.

QI allows a country to meet requirement of markets to build clients and consumer confidence, hence collaboration with PTB to strengthen QI institution, as well as the QI dialogue workshops which will increase awareness of the private sector in quality. A deliverable is the action plan to allow the bureau to be more responsive to the needs of its client.

The technical working session began with ‘Putting QI Dialogue Forum into Context’, where Ms. Julie-Ann Laudat gave the contextual framework within which the exercises will be completed. Antigua and Barbuda Food and Nutrition Security Policy focuses on increasing production and potential which will result in the potential to export increasing. As the potential to export increases, Antigua and Barbuda has to meet international Standards and Quality.

 

Ms Laudat also mentioned challenges which affect production – such as lack of trained staff, lack of lab facilities and the need for technical regulations and standards. Other breaks out sessions included the ‘Prioritization of the QI Services Needed to Meet the Needs of the Agricultural Sector’.

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Antigua and Barbuda this week moved one step closer to upgrading the quality infrastructure for the Jams and Jellies Value Chain, using the CALIDENA process.

A follow-up CALIDENA workshop, hosted by The Antigua & Barbuda Bureau of Standards (ABBS), in collaboration with the German Metrology Institute (PTB) and the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), was hosted on November 12, 2014 at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds. It was attended by stakeholders in the various links of the value chains.

The CALIDENA process under the CROSQ-implemented and PTB-funded project – Establishment of a Demand-Oriented and Regionally Harmonized Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean (RQI4), has been focussed on improving the quality infrastructure in agriculture-related value chains among the CROSQ Member States. The term “value chain” is based on the concept that the value of a product is created at various stages in production, and looks at all these steps from creation to market, to human resources, research and development, as well as the relationships behind the companies involved in developing the product.

The value chain analysis in Antigua began in February this year, with the CALIDENA Diagnostic Workshopa – usually the first step in the process. A rapid diagnosis was conducted on the jam and jellies sector in relation to quality infrastructure negatively affecting competitiveness of the sector. An action plan was developed which detailed the strategies to be undertaken to address the identified issues, the strategies that would be implemented and how, the time frame and the responsible parties. An action plan committee was also set up to oversee its implementation.

The November 12 workshop opened with welcome remarks by Mrs. Diane Lalla-Rodrigues who explained the link of the current activity with the previous workshop. This was followed by comments by Ms Janice Hilaire, project coordinator of the RQI 4 Project being. Ms Hilaire explained briefly the objectives of CALIDENA, and explained that the follow-up workshop was one component in a process designed and implemented to make the goods in the region more competitive and attractive to buyers.

A quick update was given on the progress of the action plan. Seven (7) strategies were detailed in the Action Plan including:

·         Food and safety systems improved at the company level.

·         Upgrade in ability of analytical labs at the Bureau of Standards to perform food analyses

·         Request for national standards for jams and jellies

·         Technical regulations for labeling

Ms Julie-Ann Laudat, the local CALIDENA facilitator, introduced the next activity by informing participants of the general objectives of the CALIDENA process and its relevance to the jams and jellies value chain. The overarching aim is to strengthen the quality infrastructure for the Jams and Jellies Value Chain in Antigua and Barbuda. The specific objectives, “elaborate and agree on amendments to the Action Plan to upgrade the quality infrastructure for the Jams and Jellies Value Chain.” An additional specific objective is to, “improve the understanding of agro-processors of the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practices”.

During this workshop, participants were formed into groups in order to assess the action plan and to broaden and/or deepen the diagnostic and if necessary to determine if new activities are to be added.

The final activity of the workshop was a presentation of Good Management Practices which looked at guidelines in pre-operation and operation procedures. The guidelines included storage and transportation, establishment and design of facilities, buildings for pre-operation; and control of food hazards, food additives, labelling and accuracy for operation.

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