The hard work of developing Quality Infrastructure in the Caribbean is just starting to pay off.

That’s the view of quality expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a meeting of National Accreditation Focal Points (NAFP) officials from eight CARICOM countries in Barbados this week. The workshop is an initiative under the 10th EDF-TBT Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ), the German Metrology Institute (PTB) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL). It ends on Friday, February 17.

Mr. Paladino is one of the trainers at the workshop, which is led by Mrs. Claudette Brown – Accreditation consultant and trainer.

Mr. Paladino noted that the global market was moving ahead in areas requiring product tested by labs accredited by an accreditation body that is a signatory to international accreditation agreements. Failure to meet the international requirements could result in a close out for products of the Caribbean, he noted.

“Developed markets set the rules and they’ve embraced the international accreditation system. If the Caribbean can’t meet these rules, our businesses and exporters are not going to be able to do business in these markets. Also, if the region is unable to provide recognized accreditation and conformity assessment services, then businesses and manufacturers will have to look outside the region to be able to have their products tested.

“Typically, businesses would have to go to the US, Canada or Europe and the cost of testing in these countries is probably 10 or 20 times the cost of doing it here, if we had the capabilities. That’s pretty significant for these manufacturers,” he remarked.

The expert, who is a former President of the InterAmerican Accreditation Cooperation, the internationally recognised association of accreditation bodies in the Americas and other organisations interested in conformity assessment, said this was why the work of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the National Standards Bodies (NSBs) of the region was so important to mitigating some of the international risks.

“All the hard work is finally starting to pay off. There was a slow start getting people on board, knowledgeable and trained, but today we have an accreditation body that is already recognised internationally. We are also seeing a number of labs, both in the medical and testing area, come forward and attain accreditation. So, we are taking small steps, but the question is, are we moving fast enough,” he said.

Governments, he pointed out, must be made to understand why these processes are so important to national and regional development. Standards development organisation must adopt or adapt international standards as national standards to support businesses and export.

Mrs Brown’s indicated that participants would be reviewing the requirements of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard.  She pointed out that this standard was applicable to all laboratories and can be used by the NAFPs to assist these labs in the development of their management systems for quality, administrative and technical operations.  She pointed out that the workshop would also be covering other supporting information, including the benefits of accreditation, the accreditation process and assessor attributes.   The participants were encouraged to participate fully in the activities of the week in order to maximize the benefits.

CROSQ’s Technical Officer – Accreditation, Mr. Stephen Farquharson explained that the role of the NAFP was to assist Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) with their quest for international accreditation to meet the needs of businesses. He told the officials from Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis and Suriname that the week-long training would give them the basics needed to provide the necessary assistance to CABs, and especially laboratories.

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The establishment of the first public/private sector network to oversee issues of quality assurance for testing, inspection and certification bodies, has been described by a top European Union official as a positive and necessary step in the Caribbean.

Speaking at the opening of the Second Meeting of Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB), held from November 17-18, 2016, at Accra Beach Resort in Barbados, the EU’s Team Leader for Regional Cooperation, Mr. Luca Pierantoni noted that with its formation the body could address two challenges – ensuring consumer protection and facilitating trade.

“[We] care because we are all consumers . . . So it is a chain in a way and this is why there is a particular importance of conformity assessment, of specification, all along the path of the chain of production.

“The second [it addresses] is obviously trade, and this is particularly crucial in the region, and this is also the reason why we are supporting this in the framework of the work that we do in terms of assistance for the implementation of the Economic Partnership-Agreement, which was signed as you know in 2008 and which is under implementation now,” said Mr. Pierantoni.

The Meeting was a joint CROSQ and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) meeting, funded by the EU’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF) initiatives for Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures.

Mr Pierantoni highlighted the collaboration with the German Metrology Institute (PTB) which managed the TBT component, alongside implementers, the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) in the Dominican Republic.

Further praising the steps of that initiative in creating the CANCAB, the EU expert who collaborates with CARICOM and CARIFORUM said for too many years, Caribbean exporters had to outsource conformity assessment services from outside the region, which caused problems and affected trade negatively.

“The importance of respecting standards is obviously fundamental for the capacity of access to markets, including obviously the EU market. So in this context the establishment of CANCAB is fundamental and an essential step for a resilient, more prosperous and more competitive Caribbean,” he said, adding that it was also good that one Conformity Assessment Body in the region had already been accredited.

Speaking on behalf of CROSQ, Project Coordinator for the 10th EDF-TBT Programme, Ms. Karlene Russell, highlighted the successes of the programme thus far, including more testing, inspection and certification bodies responding to the need for accrediting their services to international standards.

The capacity development of six conformity assessment bodies is progressing well and we anticipate that we will meet our target of accreditation of at least four of these bodies by the end of the 10th EDF-TBT Programme (next March). . . 

 “It is indeed our pleasure to collaborate with IICA in staging this second CANCAB meeting.  The work being done by IICA in their 10th EDF SPS Project is complementary to the work of CROSQ and as such in May 2014 IICA, the Caribbean Export Development Agency and CROSQ signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on matters relating to food safety.  This joint meeting is therefore a manifestation of that commitment.  Through our joint efforts, we believe that we will be successful in fostering a regional quality culture and to also contribute to improving Caribbean competitiveness built on a firm foundation of quality,” said Ms. Russell.

It was a cooperative agreement that Representative of IICA’s Barbados Delegation, Mrs. Ena Harvey underscored.

She added: “An effective and efficient regime for agricultural and fisheries health and food safety is dependent on having informed technical expertise and supported by strong infrastructural capability.”

“In order to meet the requirements of international trade, critical competences must exist in the areas of surveillance, diagnostics, risk analysis, emergency response capability, quarantine and all aspects for food safety including GAP, HACCP, Traceability, Risk.  Having access to laboratories that are able to conduct the required tests and diagnoses is therefore very important, and the formation of this sub-committee will play a significant role in rationalising the laboratory services that exist across the Region thereby making these services more available and affordable to stakeholders,” said the IICA Representative.

 

Over the two-day meeting of testing, inspection and certification bodies, the key issues discussed included: the validation and implementation of the CANCAB Strategic Plan; the framework for pilot testing a Regional Certification Scheme for a product; and the establishment of a Testing Subcommittee with emphasis on Agricultural Health and Food Safety (AHFS) laboratories.

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About the CROSQ 10th EDF-TBT Programme

The Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) component of the 10th European Development Fund - Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme (EDF-CRIP), "Support to the Caribbean Forum of the ACP States in the implementation of the commitments undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement", is funded through a Financial Agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM.

The overall objective of the 10th EDF Programme is to support the beneficial integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy, to support regional cooperation and the development efforts of the Caribbean, in an effort to meet the requirements under the current Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and CARIFORUM. The EPA-TBT component is expected to facilitate intra- and inter-regional trade as well as international competitiveness and sustainable production of goods and services within the CARIFORUM states for the enhancement of social and economic development.

It is implemented by CROSQ and the Dominican Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) in the Dominican Republic, and managed by the German Metrology Institute (PTB).

About the IICA 10th EDF-SPS Project

The Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Project is one component of the 10th EDF SPS Programme titled: "Support to the Caribbean Forum of ACP States in the implementation of the Commitments Undertaken under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)".

The overall objective of the 10th EDF Programme is to support the beneficial integration of the CARIFORUM states into the world economy and the overall objective of the SPS programme is to facilitate CARIFORUM States to gain and improve market access by complying with Europe's Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and to help CARIFORUM states to better develop their own regionally harmonized SPS measures. The outcomes of the SPS Project are intended to increase production and trade in agriculture and fisheries which meet international standards while protecting plant, animal and human health and the environment.

It is implemented by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.

 

*Both projects and their Implementation Agencies and partners closely collaborate so as to ensure synergy and avoid duplication. 

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Businesses in Guyana will now have the opportunity to vie to be the dubbed the best in quality products and services in the country.

That’s because the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) recently launched a National Quality Awards Programme, with the sole aim of recognising businesses that have “demonstrated commitment towards Quality by implementing recognised standards and best practices”. This will be based on a comprehensive assessment using pre-established criteria under the Quality Awards Scheme.

With this launch, the bureau, which is the main agency for the development of quality infrastructure in the country, is hoping to promote a quality of culture in Guyana; enhance business efficiency and effectiveness through usage of recognised quality services; strengthen stakeholder engagement with the bureau; create public awareness on the importance of quality in goods and services and increasing the production of such quality while increasing regional and international competitiveness among businesses.

Executive Director of the Bureau, Mrs. Candelle Walcott-Bostwick told the audience, including the business sector, “At the GNBS, and also through CROSQ (CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality), it is an initiative to recognise businesses and also to encourage our local businesses to embrace standards and quality.”

She added: “Moreso, when we look at ensuring that our businesses are competitive, having Quality Awards will allow those businesses to look at their operation in terms of standardisation and how they can become competitive. Most times our businesses may leave issues of standardisation as a last resort or if it is a demand for an export market . . . but in addition to meeting those certification requirements, we would like our businesses to have it as part of their philosophy of operation.”

CROSQ CEO, Mr. Deryck Omar commented on the timing of the launch of this Awards scheme, which was an initiative under the European Union’s 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Programme.

“It is perhaps also fortuitous that this launch comes at a time when were are not just building a regional quality infrastructure, but looking to put structures and policy in place to ensure its sustainability. As such, over the past years, CROSQ and our partners in the 10th EDF-TBT Programme have embarked on a journey to creating a Regional Quality Policy that gives context to today’s devleopments.

“This policy that I speak of, has at its heart, a focus on creating the kind of culture in the region that incorporates thoughts of quality into everything we do. It is intended to promote higher levels of productivity, innovation, export competitiveness and consumer health and environmental protection through improved quality of products and services and the development of an internationally recognised, demand-oriented, quality infrastructure – all within the context of various trade agreements,” said Mr. Omar.

Head of the Guyana Quality Awards Team, Mr. Lloyd David explained that the QA Programme for the country would look at the manufacturing and services sectors and was aimed at enhancing quality and competitiveness of local goods and services; allowing businesses to compete on quality; encouraging businesses to adopt principles of continuous improvement; heightening consumer confidence in products and services produced locally, and creating a platform for businesses to evaluate and improve businesses on quality platforms.

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If the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards & Quality (CROSQ) is to press ahead to aid the development of quality goods and services across the region that trade and compete internationally, regional governments and businesses need to play their part.

That was the view of accreditation expert, Mr. Pat Paladino, as he addressed a symposium to mark World Accreditation Day in Guyana this week.

Mr. Paladino, addressing an audience that included Minister of Business, Mr. Dominic Gaskin, regional leaders in quality infrastructure development, as well as regulators and private sector business leaders, acknowledged the role that the two major accreditations in Guyana; one in Jamaica and one in Grenada utilising CROSQ’s Caribbean Cooperation for Accreditation (CCA) Scheme, had played in pushing quality to the forefront of discussion. 

He also highlighted the Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB) another programme created by CROSQ to assist the development of the region’s conformity assessment bodies, namely the inspection, testing and certification entities within both the private and public sector. 

Additionally, said the international accreditation expert, the National Standards Bodies of Belize, Suriname and Jamaica, had all been certified to the ISO 9001 quality management system, with the assistance of CROSQ, but all this work was only the start of what was needed in the region.

“The CARICOM and CARIFORUM Regions have much more to do to be able to ensure that all quality and quality-related services are available within the regions. There are many more standards to adopt or adapt and many more conformity assessment bodies to accredit. There is a need for the development of capabilities within the NABs for product, services and personnel certification bodies and inspection bodies. 

“It is also necessary to obtain international recognition of the National Accreditation Bodies for certification and inspection bodies. Each one is a formidable task, but I have confidence that the organizations are up for the task,” said the accreditation consultant.

“All this work and the achievements will go to waste if there is no uptake by government or business. That is the policies and programmes developed must be embraced and put to use. Regional standards that are harmonized internationally must be adopted at the national level. National regulations must start to reference the use of these standards and address qualification of organizations to the international standards.

“The time is now to show such commitments. Without your commitment it will become extremely difficult for Caribbean organizations to be competitive in international and regional markets,” he added, congratulating the Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) on the tremendous work it had done in the country thus far.

Head of Conformity Assessment at the Bureau, Mrs. Candelle Walcott-Bostwick noted the high demand in the country for quality management services and accreditation services, since the recent accreditations of the Guyana Rice Development Board’s Central Laboratory and the Eureka Medical Laboratories Inc. in Georgetown, with the assistance of the bureau, CROSQ and funding partners.

Likewise, Technical Officer for Accreditation with CROSQ, Mr. Stephen Farquharson, made a call for labs wanting to move to accreditation status to contact the local focal point at the GNBS to access the services CROSQ could provide to begin the process.

He noted that CCA Scheme and the CANCAB mechanism were both created under the European Union’s 10th European Development Fund Technical Barriers to Trade Programme, and additional funding partners like the Caribbean Development Bank, the UK Department for International Development, as well as the Centres for Disease Control under various programmes, had enabled the assistance to be provided to the labs and bureaux that had received certification or accreditation. This assistance, he noted, was available to others seeking it. 

Furthermore, like Mr. Paladino, he underscored the importance of the focus on quality to breaking barriers and opening new markets for products and services for the countries of CARICOM and CARIFORUM, and protecting the general welfare, health and safety of consumers and the environment. 

The CROSQ officer noted that the organisation was in the process of cooperating and collaborating on a common regional quality policy and strategy of development that was needed in the region and for which close public and private sector linkages with the bureaux of standards would be needed.

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Conformity Assessment Bodies across CARIFORUM States were encouraged on Monday to work together to build a stronger network to improve the quality and ease of regional and international trade.

The advice came from CEO of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), Mr. Deryck Omar, as the first ever Caribbean Conformity Assessment Week kicked off in Trinidad and Tobago this morning.

Mr. Omar further emphasized the need for harmonization of standards, processes and procedures, along with mutual recognition of conformity assessment procedures covering goods and services as critical to facilitate trade.

Conformity Assessment Week, from November 2 – 6, is being hosted in Trinidad and Tobago, with support from the 10th European Development Fund Technical Barriers to Trade Programme, which is managed in the Caribbean by CROSQ, the Dominican Republic’s Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) and German Metrology Institute, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesandstalt (PTB). The week’s events are being held in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS), under the theme “Advancing Caribbean Trade Through Quality Assurance”.

CEO of the TTBS, Mr. Theodore Reddock told the more than 40 participants in the workshop that, “the road to regional quality infrastructure”, actually started with the metrology group trying to develop a regional project and along the way attracted assistance from Germany, and North America and eventually broadened to include other aspects of quality infrastructure as well as the Economic Partnership Agreement and the European Union.

“I think we also need to reflect on the significance of what is happening now because in the process of developing regional quality infrastructure, conformity assessment is where the rubber really starts to hit the road. The theory is finished and the esoteric ideas have been discussed and now we getting down to the nitty-gritty – how are we going to be really positively affecting the region as a whole … When we talk about health and safety, the protection of the environment, education, all of these things that are important to us are major conformity assessment activities,” the CEO noted.

CROSQ Council Sponsor for regional quality assurance schemes, Mr. Robert Medford, also CEO of the Grenada Bureau of Standards, stated: “As our market space becomes more challenged, integrating the role of conformity assessment will be a critical factor, and we must ensure that proper systems or processes are in place. Without these conformity assessment systems and processes, realizing the full benefits of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) will be difficult.”

PTB’s Head of Technical Cooperation in Latin America and the Caribbean, Dr. Valqui noted the growth in quality infrastructure in the region, as he congratulated the St. Lucia Bureau of Standards which recently claimed the International Organisation for Legal Metrology (OIML) Award for Excellent Achievement in Legal Metrology in Developing Countries. Dr. Valqui underscored the importance of conformity assessment in further advancing quality infrastructure in the region and thanked the European Union for all their development support in this respect.

The key event during this week of activities is the launch and inaugural meeting of the Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB) Committee.

The newly formed committee, which falls under the ambit of CROSQ, was established with the responsibility to develop the regional conformity assessment infrastructure as it relates to testing, inspection, certification and market surveillance. This meeting will provide the definition, scope and goals of the CANCAB, along with developing the strategic framework of the regional conformity assessment infrastructure.

Additionally, the week will include an Organisation of American States (OAS) FEMCIDI Programme sponsored regional workshop entitled “Conformity Assessment in National Processes – Building Regional Competence in the Disciplines of Conformity Assessment”. The workshop will bring together both private and public sector, including regulators and business support institutions, to introduce participants to the national, regional and international considerations for the preparation and application of conformity assessment.

The working meetings will end on Friday, with the 3rd Meeting of the Technical Implementation Group for Conformity Assessment under the 10th EDF TBT Programme, which will develop a work plan for the period January 2016 to March 2017.

Caribbean Conformity Assessment Week 2015 represents a major milestone for the development of quality infrastructure within the region, as efforts are made to advance Caribbean trade through quality assurance.

 

CROSQ’s Technical Officer for Conformity Assessment, Mr. Trumel Redmond, expressed joy at the high turnout of the conformity assessment bodies from both the private and public sector across the region for this important week of activities.

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A high level Caribbean Conformity Assessment Week - “Advancing Caribbean Trade through Quality Assurance” - will kick off in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, November 2, 2015, with representatives from most of the CARIFORUM States in attendance.

The week, being funded by the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Programme, which is managed in the Caribbean by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), the Dominican Republic’s Institute for Quality (INDOCAL) and the German Metrology Institute (PTB),is also being held in collaboration with the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS). The week, which runs until November 6, will comprise three important meetings for this region under the theme “Advancing Caribbean Trade through Quality Assurance”.

The first event is the inaugural meeting of the CROSQ - Caribbean Network of Conformity Assessment Bodies (CANCAB) Committee.

The newly formed Committee was established with the responsibility to develop the regional conformity assessment (quality assurance) infrastructure as it relates to testing, inspection, certification and market surveillance. This meeting will provide the definition, scope and goals of the CANCAB Committee, along with developing the strategic framework of the regional conformity assessment infrastructure.

Additionally, the week will include an Organization of American States (OAS) FEMCIDI Programme sponsored regional workshop entitled “Conformity Assessment in National Processes – Building Regional Competence in the Disciplines of Conformity Assessment”. The workshop will bring together both private and public sector, including regulators and business support institutions, to introduce participants to the national, regional and international considerations for the preparation and application of conformity assessment.

The week will end on Friday, with the 3rd Meeting of the Technical Implementation Group for Conformity Assessment, which will conduct an assessment of the objectives and results for conformity assessment within the 10th EDF TBT Programme, and then plan activities and objectives for the upcoming year towards the end of the project in 2017.

 

Caribbean Conformity Assessment Week 2015 represents a major milestone for the development of quality infrastructure within the region, as efforts are made to advance Caribbean trade through quality assurance. The formation of the CANCAB Committee, which comprises representatives from both the private and public sector, represents one of the more important achievements thus far.

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