The Government will be expending $25.4 million this fiscal year, to strengthen the capacity of testing laboratories involved in the export of agricultural and agro-processed products to the European Union (EU) markets. The allocation, provided under the European Development Fund Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Capacity Building Project, is contained in the 2013/2014 Estimates of Expenditure, which is now before the House of Representatives.
Among the facilities to benefit are: the Bureau of Standards Jamaica chemistry and microbiology laboratory, and a similar facility at the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ Veterinary Services Division; the plant virology and pathology laboratories at the Bodles Agricultural Research Station; as well as the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) pesticides research laboratory.
The expenditure will also go towards efforts to increase awareness of international standards and technical requirements in the public sector. Funded by the EU, the project seeks to facilitate increased and more diversified exports of agricultural and agri-processed products to the EU markets.
This will be achieved by strengthening the capacity of facilities, which support the export industry, in order to promote export competitiveness and food security, as outlined in the National Export Strategy (NES), and the country’s National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica, being administered by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
During the formal signing ceremony for the project in December 2012, Finance and Planning Minister, Hon. Dr. Peter Phillips, stated that the undertaking will, among other things, aid in significantly reducing Jamaica's food bill, which amounts to some $1 billion. The project is scheduled to be completed by April 2014.