The CARICOM Region now has its first accredited citrus plant pathology laboratory, located in Belize.

The Belize Citrus Growers Association’s (CGA) was awarded the ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation certificate by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) at the 32nd Meeting of the Council of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) held in Barbados recently.

The CGA’s Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Henry Anderson noted that this accreditation was proof that the laboratory was competent to perform tests to the “General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories” ISO / IEC 17025 Standard.

“Continuous analysis of the regional and global marketplace led us to the realization that we were competing not in a traditional citrus industry but in a juice industry. While we must redouble our efforts to expand our citrus production, we must do so while complementing our citrus production with the production of other fruit varieties and vegetables that can be processed to formulate the juice blends that are now being demanded by the regional and global marketplace,” he said.

To do this, he noted that the association set out to achieve management system certification of its Plant World Nursery with assistance from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which should happen by the end of this year; accreditation of its laboratories operated by the association’s research arm, the Citrus Research and Education Institute (CREI); improvement of its commercial services and scaling up operations within its production and processing company. All these elements, he maintained, would strengthen the overall citrus value chain operated by CGA.

“Our vision was in the first instance to improve customer service and then to attract resources to get ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation for the lab and ISO 9001:2015 certification for Plant World Nursery. These would be leveraged to submit a proposal and get exclusive access to two patented HLB Valencia citrus varieties that were being released in Florida.”

The CDB has played a crucial role in financing the technical assistance to get the laboratory and nursery towards certification and then accreditation status. CROSQ provided the technical assistance for the accreditation through its Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme.. In this case, JANAAC was the accreditation body that conducted the assessments to verify the lab’s conformance to the standard.

The CEO also praised his team for their commitment. “We have a very small team, but they set sail down the river of uncertainty and worked seven days per week, twelve to fifteen hours per day to get accredited for five test methods - HLB, Citrus Psorosis, Citrus Tristeza, pH water and pH soil. All tests that are critical to the production of citrus nursery plants that must comply with the Belize Agricultural Health Authority’s Belize Citrus Certification Program regulations.

“CDB relied on CROSQ to provide technical oversight for the project and both organizations allowed us to synchronize the work of their respective consultants - Mrs. Maxine Campbell for CROSQ project and Dr. Raymond Reid for CDB project. This collaboration by two regional organizations is a model to be replicated,” stated Mr. Anderson.

Coordinator, Regional Cooperation and Integration in the Regional Cooperation Division of the CDB, Ms. Andrea Power stated: “CDB’s support for the accreditation of the CGA Lab both through the EU EPA Standby Facility and the CDB’s Caribbean Technological Consultancy Services (CTCS) is part of an overall effort by the Bank to support regional cooperation and integration in general and to facilitate increased intra-regional trade in particular. The Bank remains committed to supporting enhanced quality infrastructure so that more regionally produced goods can meet market access requirements.”

CROSQ’s CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar, who praised all the partners involved said it was a proud moment for the organisation and the collaborative mechanisms within the CARICOM Region which saw this accreditation come to pass.

“When the CROSQ Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme was established, it was envisioned as a way to not only bring the cost of accreditation down across the region, but as a way to pool our knowledge and skills as a region, so those with the expertise could assist, through a cooperative arrangement, those who needed support to accreditation and did not have all the requisite resources. Since the scheme started under the 10th EDF-TBT (European Development Fund-Technical Barriers to Trade) Programme, we’ve seen more and more labs being accredited under the CCA.

“All this also comes together because of donor agencies who are willing to also put their contributions behind the process, and that’s where organisations like the Caribbean Development Bank, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the European Union (EU) and others, who have played a part, because it is a serious financial undertaking when labs decide to take this step toward accreditation. The wonderful thing about it though is that we have been proving throughout the CARICOM chain that the benefits are worth it, for the lives, health and safety of our Caribbean populations.”

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The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) has been praised by regional and international partners for the role it continues to play in supporting the improvement of the quality of products and services traded within the region.

The praise, from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the European Union (EU), came as CROSQ was hosting the 32nd Meeting of its Council of National Bureaux of Standards’ Directors in Barbados recently.

Coordinator of Regional Cooperation and Integration in the Technical Cooperation Division of CDB, Ms. Andrea Power, told the opening of the meeting that CROSQ’s model of cost-effectively pooling resources between member states to provide “complementary systems and services” held the potential to be a benchmark model in the area of trade.

“CDB is pleased to participate in the 32nd meeting of the council of CROSQ. The Board’s commitment to and mandate to promote regional integration is rooted in its founding charter and as such the promotion of regional integration is a cross-cutting thematic priority within our strategic framework.

“Our commitment to regional integration is also rooted in a certain belief that if we get it right, regional integration represents a unique opportunity for the region to take advantage of international trade and insert itself into global value chains on our own terms and in a more sustainable and resilient way,” said the Bank official.

Ms. Power further called for a completion of the regional Single Market, stating, “While we have expended significant effort to remove restrictions found in our laws, we must now aggressively pursue what I call market making reforms and building out of regional public goods which will make the single market more efficient and make access to the single market more equitable.”

She highlighted the Bank’s recent commitment of US$700,000 towards developing national quality policies in five countries, based on CROSQ’s own Regional Quality Policy, as well as the intention to add another two regional analytical laboratories to the growing list of those being accredited.

Her comments followed those of the First Secretary to the Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, the Eastern Caribbean States, the OECS and CARICOM/CARIFORUM, Mr. Luca Pierantoni, who noted that the execution of the technical barriers to trade (TBT) component of the 10th European Development Fund programme, by German National Metrology Institute, CROSQ, the Quality Institute of the Dominican Republic was a success because of cooperation between entities.

Mr. Pierantoni maintained, “Experience has demonstrated that actions at the regional level will be unsuccessful without the commitment, support and involvement of concerned actors at the national level,” adding that the partnership of regional and national entities would continue to be important to the success of the upcoming TBT programme of the 11th EDF.

“One thing that we will always need to keep in mind is that whatever we do, whatever we establish, all the certification mechanisms that we set up, all the laboratories that we help operationalize, all the legislation that we help draft, all the regulations that we manage to review, should have only one aim: to benefit the people outside that door; to create more conducive conditions to make business in the Caribbean; to make the private sector of the Caribbean more competitive,” the EU First Secretary reiterated.

“We want a system that is centered on the private sector of the Caribbean, that responds to its needs; that focusses on the value chain; that builds on the potentials that the Caribbean economies have and concretely help the business to export more and better and to reach durable market penetration in Europe and elsewhere,” he said.

The meeting comprised two open days of dialogues with agencies including the Pan-American Health Organisation/World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO); the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA); the CARICOM Secretariat; the Caribbean Poultry Association; ASTM International; the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO); Caribbean Export Development Agency and several others.

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The Board of Directors of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has approved USD750,000 in funding for a programme that will assist the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) with strengthening intra-regional trade.

At least five countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia and Suriname – will benefit from three interventions to be implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

“This programme will assist producers with overcoming some of the challenges encountered when trying to export their products, and will therefore enhance their ability to increase market access, penetrate new markets and integrate into global value chains,” said Mr. Daniel Best, Director of Projects, CDB.

“Some of the key constraints manufacturers, exporters and service providers in the CARICOM face are caused by non-tariff trade barriers, otherwise known as Technical Barriers to Trade,” he added.

The Director also noted that well-functioning quality infrastructure can minimize TBTs, open doors for producers in CARICOM countries to regional and international markets, and help them to raise the standard of their production processes, thereby enhancing their competitiveness.

Quality infrastructure refers to the public and private institutional framework required to implement standardisation, accreditation and conformity assessment services, including inspection, testing, and laboratory and product certification.

The CDB-funded interventions will assist with bringing Regional goods in line with international standards.

They include:

  • developing National Quality Policies intended to protect consumers and safeguard human health, safety, and the environment;
  • technical assistance to two testing laboratories – to be chosen from among the five countries – for International Standards Organisation (ISO) 10725 accreditation; and
  • development and implementation of an awareness campaign to promote and sensitise stakeholders, particularly women, indigenous people, youth and other minority and at risk groups, on matters related to the development and implementation of quality policies, and to improve knowledge and use of accredited testing services.

CROSQ is scheduled to commence the 18-month Strengthening of Regional Quality Infrastructure Programme in May, 2018. The interventions to be rolled out under the initiative are consistent with the Bank’s strategic objective of supporting inclusive and sustainable growth and development within its Borrowing Member Countries.

(Source: CDB Press Release)

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