The Inter-American Institute for Corporation on Agriculture (IICA) with support from the United States Department of Agriculture Foreign Agriculture Service (USDA FAS) programme is currently hosting a three-day Grower Training Workshop for Guyana. This exercise is expected to promote the understanding of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule.
Some 25 fruit and vegetable growers and extensionists will be exposed to a series of indoor and outdoor training exercises that seek to prepare them to be able to meet the requirements to export fresh fruits and vegetables to the United States of America.
The objective of the programme, which is being funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), is to increase competitiveness and the technical capacity of food safety professionals to comply with the requirements of the United States FSMA.
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, while delivering remarks during the opening ceremony of the workshop, welcomed the exercise which seeks to enhance the technical capacity of agricultural producers, and acknowledged that the development of Guyana’s food safety system is an ongoing process.
“…The Government of Guyana acknowledges that the development of our food safety system is an ongoing process, and therefore we welcome this training course which will enhance the technical capacity of agricultural producers to comply with the requirements of the United States Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA),” the minister explained.
He further stated that while the Government is steadfast in its efforts to ramp up production of several priority commodities, among which are fruits and vegetables, the ultimate goal is to reduce the country’s dependency on extra-regional imports while creatingan environment for local exporters to be able to access international markets.
“…As of half-year (2023), Guyana’s other crops sub-sector grew by 9.4%.In 2022 Guyana exported to the U.S. a quantity of fruits, vegetables and agro-processed products totaling 673,985 kg, with the total exports for the first half of 2023 increasing to 744,424kg.
“There has been an increasing demand for primary products and agro-processed products such as coconut and coconut water, fresh and frozen fruits, pineapples, mangoes, achar, and pepper among several other commodities,” he noted.
Minister Mustapha noted too that, while the government continues to place emphasis on food safety as an important step in Guyana’s quest towards expanding its export potential, growers and producers need to be able to meet all regulatory standards for the production, harvest, and handling of fruits and vegetables in an effort to prevent microbial contamination and reduce foodborne illnesses.
“All agricultural producers, current and potential exporters must have a basic understanding of microorganisms relevant to produce safety and where they may be found on the farm, how to identify microbial risks, practices that reduce risks, and how to begin implementing produce safety practices on the farm, parts of a farm food safety plan and how to begin writing one, and the requirements in the FSMA Produce Safety Rule and how to meet them,” Minister Mustapha added.
Meanwhile, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Guyana Ms. Adrienne Galanek noted that the exercise is a product of a partnership between the United States of America and the Caribbean to address the climate crisis food security initiative.
“Notably, this collaborative effort is an outcome of the US-Caribbean partnership to address the climate crisis food security initiative which was launched after the 9th Summit of the Americas. This activity is also in response to requests made by Guyana Marketing Corporation (New GMC).
“The excellent three-day course will promote a greater understanding of the US FDA Food Safety Modernization Act produce safety rule. The rule establishes science-based minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing, and holding of fruits and vegetables grown for human consumption,” Ms. Galanke noted.
Over the next three days, experts from IICA’s headquarters in Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago’s National Agriculture Marketing Development Corporation along with other staff from IICA’s Guyana office will guide the proceedings which are scheduled to conclude on Friday.