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Regional workshop discusses stronger control of transboundary animal and plant diseases and pests in Iraq and Syria

Baghdad July 2, 2019: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in cooperation with Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health and Environment, held the inception workshop of the ‘Strengthening Transboundary Animal and Plant Control Mechanisms in Iraq” project on Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019 in Baghdad.

The workshop aimed at assessing the current capacity of Iraq’s agricultural and veterinary quarantine facilities and identifying strengths, pain points and development opportunities. It also sought to review and update the legal and legislative framework of quarantine processes to ensure they comply with the requirements of the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

Additionally, the event was designed to educate the participants about the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the "SPS Agreement"), the International Standards for Phytosanitary Measures (ISPM) and the OIE’s standards.

The workshop discussed ways of identifying and detecting quarantine (notifiable) pests and diseases, devising a long-term plan to improve the efficiency of quarantine agencies, besides the development of a contingency plan to address pests and potential diseases.

It also looked into ways of developing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for inspection purposes as well as prospects for the provision of technical support to establish an agricultural quarantine quality assurance system.  The workshop tackled means of supporting quarantine pest and disease laboratories and the rehabilitation of border inspection and quarantine stations.

Thaer Yaseen, Regional Plant Protection Officer, FAO-RNE, delivered an opening speech on behalf of the FAO representative in Iraq, in which he welcomed the participants who came from the ministries of agriculture and health and underscored their key role in achieving the project's objectives. Yaseen underlined the importance of supporting agricultural and veterinary quarantine to protect Iraq's agricultural resources from transboundary diseases, which pose a major threat to food security and agricultural investments.

Dr. Hussein Ali Saud, Adviser to the Iraqi Minister of Agriculture, voiced the minister's support of the project and said the ministry is keen to draw up development schemes and upgrade agricultural and veterinary quarantine facilities in Iraq.

Dr. Abdul Sattar Al-Kubaisi gave an overview of Iraq's veterinary quarantine structures and the regulatory framework, pointing to the damage many border quarantine stations suffered and the need for their reconstruction. He also highlighted the need for supporting dedicated laboratories to ensure that animal- or meat-borne epidemiological pathogens will not enter Iraq.

Representative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Esraa Hashim, outlined the Agricultural Quarantine Law which serves as the legislative and procedural framework of the Iraqi quarantine authorities. She also underlined the need to build and develop more quarantine stations to ensure an efficient quarantine system. Hashim emphasized that the priority is to build and upgrade the technical and knowledge capacities of quarantine staff.

Dr. Laith Abbas, Representative of the Ministry of Health, spoke about cross-cutting areas between health and veterinary quarantine authorities, referring to the laws and regulations governing the work of health quarantine authorities in the country. He highlighted some responsibilities of health quarantine authorities, which include meat and animal products inspection against potential threats to public health and could carry zoonotic epidemics such as avian influenza. 

Friederike Mayen, FAO Senior Livestock Development Officer, reviewed the most significant and most dangerous global epidemics caused by transboundary animal diseases and pests, as well as FAO's efforts to strengthen the capacity of states to address the risks of such diseases.

Thaer Yaseen, Regional Plant Protection Officer, FAO-RNE, spoke about the threats plant diseases and pests pose to Iraq, especially as the country's agricultural trade and imports increased by 4 to 5 times during the past ten years. He explained that higher trade movement could increase the threat of such diseases given the heavy burden placed on Iraq's quarantine authorities because of armed conflicts and political turmoil that plagued the country in the last twenty years.

The workshop concluded with some recommendations and proposals related to the activities necessary to achieve the objectives of the project and the development of a practical plan to implement the activities within the time frame specified for the project at the end of the current year 2019. This is in addition to the distribution of responsibilities to various parties to ensure the participation of all relevant bodies and coordination and cooperation among them.


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