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) was on hand recently to celebrate with Eureka Medical Laboratories (EML), as the laboratory rang in its 21st year of operation by becoming the first such medical company to receive the ISO 15189 Accredited status, in Guyana.

In the ceremony held just a week ago in the South American country, CEO of EML, Mr. Andrew Boyle told the gathering of dignitaries that included Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, and staff, that it had been a long but worthwhile journey.

The accreditation road was costly, rough and long but today we have reaped the benefits of our hard work. What a lovely and profound feeling of satisfaction that was! It is now that the work has commenced,” said the EML head.

Technical assistance was provided by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), through the technical implementation by the German National Metrology Institute’s (PTB) Regional Quality Infrastructure (RQI) 4 Project.

CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar, whose regional organisation lent technical assistance to the lab to reach the accreditation, told the audience: “Tonight’s launch and celebration of the Eureka Medical Laboratories’ accreditation to the ISO 15189 standard for quality and competence in medical laboratories, bears testament to the development assistance and cooperative mechanisms of the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme as we are recognising the accreditation of a second laboratory in Guyana within a mere nine months; the other laboratory being a testing laboratory – the Guyana Rice Development Board Central Laboratory.”

The CCA Scheme brings professional expertise to labs looking to get accredited, utilising personnel from the region’s quality infrastructure institutions. In the case of EML, the guidance was provided by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards, whose laboratory certification programme to the GYS 170 standard, provided a stepping stone to accreditation.

Additional technical assistance to EML through CROSQ came from the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) programme.

Congratulating EML on the achievement, Mr. Omar further remarked: “CROSQ is delighted to extend sincere congratulations to the Eureka Medical Laboratories for this remarkable achievement of being the very first medical laboratory in Guyana to be accredited to the ISO 15189 standard. This accreditation also represents the first medical laboratory to be accredited by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC) outside of Jamaica and the first medical laboratory to achieve accreditation through the CCA Scheme.”

CEO of JANAAC, Mrs. Sharonmae Shirley underscored the importance of this step to Guyana, as well as the Caribbean.

“This is important not only for trade but it is also important for tourism. It is important for health. The medical tourism industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. The EML has now enhanced Guyana’s reach into this lucrative market.”

Minister Norton commenting on the company’s successful five-year journey to accreditation, noted that this was evidence of the quality medical service available in the country.

“For too often we take it for granted that all we need to supply is service and we forget about the quality. Eureka has proven it wrong.  ... While I applaud you for the achievement that you have made, I urge you not to become complacent, but to continually improve on and expand your laboratory service,” the minister urged.

Representative of PTB, Mrs. Anett Matbadal congratulated the lab on the success, as well as the GNBS in the role it played in assisting the process.

"I am glad Eureka Medical Laboratories has achieved this and I want to acknowledge the great help that GNBS was providing, because I still remember when CROSQ together with PTB was starting to develop the CCA Scheme in the region with two national bodies in Jamaica and Trinidad, and 15 National Accreditation Focal Points in the region ... We hope this accreditation will serve you well and open markets for you and in the name of PTB I wish you all the best for the future," said Matbadal.

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The Caribbean is now much more equipped to ensure safety from pesticides in fruits and vegetables with the accreditation of the University of the West Indies’ Jamaica-based Pesticide Research Laboratory (PRL) less than a week ago.

The laboratory was accredited in the area of Food Testing by the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC), thanks to the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CARTFund) Project funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), and administered by the Caribbean Development Bank. The project was implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

PRL can now provide pesticide residue analysis on fruits and vegetables with this accreditation and be assured that the test results will be internationally acceptable. It is the first laboratory to have received this accreditation, specifically for pesticides, in the region.

Remarks from CROSQ’s CEO Mr. Deryck Omar were delivered by head of the University’s Pesticide Research Laboratory, Professor Tara Dasgupta. In the remarks, Mr. Omar noted that CROSQ and others had extended technical support to the laboratory in securing the certification, which was the second such accreditation performed through the regional organisation’s Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme. The CROSQ-CCA Scheme provides conformity assessment bodies with regional opportunities to access affordable and reliable available development assistance in pursuit of accreditation.

“Jamaica and the Caribbean at large are well known for its vast array of fresh fruits and vegetable which provide immense nutritional value. More of these fruits and vegetables are being processed along the value chain as the region seeks to increase its capacity in creating value added products,” the CEO stressed.

He further extended thanks to technical consultant Ms. Maxine Campbell for her assistance to the laboratory, as well as the Bureau of Standards Jamaica for its support, and the CDB and DFID for the financial backing. Thanks were also expressed to Professor Dasgupta, Dr. Raymond Reid and the team at PRL for their commitment to seeing the process through to successful completion.

 

The accreditation ceremony was officiated by Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, who noted, “A strengthened NQI [National Quality Infrastructure] means that the products and services developed in Jamaica and tests conducted by our laboratories are trusted internationally. It means realizing the full benefits of the National Export Strategy.”

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The Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB)’s Central Laboratory has made history by becoming the first laboratory in Guyana to become accredited to the International Standards Organisation’s ISO/IEC 17025 standard. The ISO standard is used by laboratories in developing their management system for quality, administrative and technical operations. Laboratory customers, regulatory authorities and accreditation bodies may also use it in confirming or recognizing the competence of laboratories.

By earning this standard, the GRBD has achieved several significant milestones including becoming the first laboratory in the region to have:

  •  attained accreditation through the CARTFund, the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund financed by the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID)
  • been assisted towards achieving accreditation by the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) functioning as the National Accreditation Focal Point (NAFP)
  • become accredited outside of Jamaica utilising the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation (JANAAC)
  • earned accreditation through the Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme created by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).

The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), a partner in the CARTFund Project, noted that the accreditation was a particularly gratifying step, and a very important achievement for the Project.

“A major constraint to trade and market access, even where tariffs have been eliminated, is the ability to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary standards and quality requirements”, said Edward Greene, Division Chief, Technical Cooperation Division of the Caribbean Development Bank.   “The Accreditation of the GRDB Central Laboratory means that the rice sector in Guyana now has access to accredited testing services. This is a significant milestone in the development of the value chain of the Rice subsector in Guyana”.

CROSQ’s CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar shared the view that this was an excellent example of countries supporting each other using specialised expertise and resources.

“This accreditation demonstrates functional regional integration as together each achieves more.  It is a positive development to see how the expertise of JANAAC was brought to bear in supporting Guyana in this process. The CCA Scheme has several advantages as conformity assessment bodies receive coaching, training and development assistance towards achieving accreditation. We find this approach to be economical and practical,” said Mr. Omar.

Permanent Secretary in Guyana’s Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. George Jervis further described the achievement of the accreditation as auspicious, because GRDB is the country’s lead agency in agriculture.

“Prior to this certification, the Guyana Rice Development Board was tasked with sending samples for testing to the USA, which roughly took two weeks for results. Today, we no longer have to take this route. Being ISO/IEC certified is a useful tool which will add credibility by demonstrating that rice coming out of Guyana meets the expectations of our buyers”, he said, reading a prepared speech from the Honourable Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Noel Holder.

The accreditation process began under the project in 2014 and was accelerated with receipt of a grant of US$522,401 from the CARTFund.

The objective of the CARTFund project is to strengthen the capabilities of testing laboratories in CARIFORUM Member States to provide reliable, competent, internationally recognised and affordable testing services to exporters. CROSQ and the CDB are the implementing partners for the Project.

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