INTRA-REGIONAL trade remains a key priority for Caricom executives as well as food producers. However, understanding regional market entry requirements tends to pose a challenge for potential food exporters.
Efforts to address one aspect of this issue were made on August 26, 2021, when the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) hosted a capacity-building webinar titled Packaging and Labeling Regulations. food for Caricom markets. The activity was facilitated by Sharon Peart-Rose, Senior Food Technologist at the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI).
The session was part of a series of capacity building webinars organized by IICA as part of a project funded by its International Trade and Regional Integration Program. While the webinar was open to food producers across Caricom, the project is directly implemented in six Caricom countries, namely Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. In each of the countries there will be specific national capacity building activities while the regional sessions will address generic deficiencies among producers. The project will also include support for product testing for market access, e-commerce facilitation and networking, and will result in connecting producers with buyers via a virtual business forum from November 10-12, 2021.
Moderator Dr Lisa Harrynanan, agricultural health and food safety specialist at IICA, noted that the issue of packaging and labeling remains a major obstacle for small regional producers. Stating that many producers are unaware of the different demands of the domestic market, Harrynanan said, the information shared would put export-ready producers in a more competitive position. And with the participation of more than 150 Caricom producers, the information reached a wide audience.
Outlining the legislation of different territories related to both packaging and labeling, Peart-Rose said that when it comes to packaging, in the absence of a published regional standard, each country has its own legislative guidelines.
She pointed out that in most major markets it was an offense to “package food in a manner that is false, deceptive or deceptive or likely to create a false impression of its character, value, quantity, composition. , their value or their security ”.
Peart-Rose added that although most countries do not have detailed packaging legislation, there was legislation banning polystyrene packaging in key markets such as Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana. , Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
She noted that labeling requirements for countries can come from national standards offices, but noted that many markets have updated their requirements to comply with labeling guidelines from Caricom and CODEX Alimentarius.
These two guidelines are good baselines as they correspond to international guidelines when it comes to basic labeling elements, she said.
The participants welcomed the initiative and welcomed the wealth of information shared.
Bianna Edwards, a tea producer from Tobago, said she was impressed with the level of detail provided and the information was timely.
Guyana Marketing Corporation (GMC) representative Asraf Narine also mentioned the value of the activity, noting that the information would be extremely beneficial for small exporters.
Allister Glean, Technical Specialist, IICA’s International Trade and Regional Integration Program, informed participants that the activity was only possible through collaboration with CARIRI and other partners.
He said additional sessions regarding distribution, transportation logistics, costing and product pricing as well as global identification of market opportunities were all scheduled for the coming weeks.
Glean reminded participants that while the Covid-19 pandemic has generally had a negative impact on producers, there are still opportunities in regional markets, and stressed that through collaboration between agencies and producers, businesses could rebound positively.
He noted that, if further information was needed, participants should contact IICA’s national delegations as well as national associations of producers and manufacturers.