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Unit set up to prevent pest infestation

Published:Friday | January 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Minister of Agriculture Dr Christopher Tufton (foreground) cuts the ribbon to officially open the Pest Risk Analysis Unit, following a ceremony at the ministry's Veterinary Services Division on Tuesday. The Agriculture Ministry team observing the exercise are Donovan Stanberry, permanent secretary and Sheila Harvey, chief plant quarantine/produce inspector. - Contributed

THE AGRICULTURE Ministry has strengthened its capacity to curtail the infestation of pests in Jamaica.

On Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Dr Christopher Tufton officially opened the ministry's Pest Risk Analysis (PRA) unit following a brief ceremony in the conference room of the Veterinary Services Division in St Andrew.

The unit, part of the ministry's Plant Quarantine/Produce Inspection Branch, is charged with the responsibility of preventing the infestation of pests in the country through investigation and evaluation and provision of technical information.

Pest-risk analysis is conducted to protect the agricultural sector from damage that can be caused by harmful pests brought into Jamaica with imported goods.

Tufton said the unit was set up to protect consumers and was not intended to restrict commerce or trade.

He explained that the unit was intended to provide a level of protection for the consuming public, and within the agricultural sector, because of the risk from exposure to foreign pests.

Proper monitoring

Tufton argued that the extent to which factors such as diseases, pests and contaminants move from one location to the next was, in some instances, attributable to a lack of proper monitoring of the trade environment.

The agriculture minister also pointed out that in order for Jamaica to engage in overseas trade, particularly of food items, systems have to be implemented to ensure foods meet certain basic standards.

He acknowledged that while the Government was committed to the 'eating what you grow and growing what you eat' mantra, Jamaica was unlikely to produce all the food required by the population.