EU, Caribbean in accord to upgrade food export standards

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AFP) - The European Union agreed to spend US$15.7 million (S$19.6 million) on improving systems to ensure that Caribbean food exports meet international standards, officials said.

The EU Ambassador to Guyana, Mr Robert Kopecky, and the Director General of the Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, Mr Victor Villalobos, signed the agreement on the margins of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, being held in Guyana.

"Nobody doubts the quality and organic nature of the products of the Caribbean but some bureaucratic procedures from the point of view of consumer protection aren't simply there," said Mr Kopecky.

He explained that proper sanitary and phytosanitary standards would ensure that the Caribbean could take adequate advantage of its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU.

Mr Kopecky told AFP that under the three-year project, the funds would be used for training and possibly the establishment of food testing laboratories.

The EU envoy said that not only food exports to the EU would be of a high standard but also food sent to other markets.

Since the Caribbean signed the EPA with the EU in 2008, very little has been done to kick-start trade, particularly from the region to Europe.