The country’s lawmakers yesterday approved three key pieces of legislation that will among other things control the movement of animals and plants to and from Guyana, and regulate the production and sale of seeds.
The Animal Health Bill 2011; Seeds Bill 2011 and Plant Protection Bill 2011 are in keeping with changing requirements globally and are critical if Guyana wants to export food, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, argued yesterday.
The Animal Health Bill is designed to control the movement of animals into and within Guyana; prevent the spread of disease from the possible importation and export of animals, products and livestock feed.
The Seeds Bill is to regulate the production, sale, import and export of seed for sowing. When assented, authorities will be able to provide for the certification of seeds either coming or leaving Guyana.
Under the Plant Protection Bill, authorities will be hoping that new measures will help to regulate the importation and exportation of plants and planting materials. The act will also address the issue of exotic pests and diseases that can come from plants.
According to Minister Persaud, the reformation of the existing Animal and Plant Health legislation and the introduction of the Seed Bill fit smoothly into the agricultural spectrum that the world is now advancing to and aids the transformation process in the country.
Also, it fits into the regional framework, as CARICOM has just recently even adopted a joint approach and proceeded to establish the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) aimed at standardizing and improving the regional agricultural system in a unified approach.
The existing animal, plant and seeds bills are archaic and unable to deal with local, regional and global requirements, he argued.
“The existing regulations do not provide for issues dealing with plant and animal health, WTO/SPS agreement, etc. Guyana’s agricultural trade, therefore, is being compromised under the existing bills.”
The components of the existing Plant Protection regulation, for instance, are unable to provide adequate Phytosanitary Services to Guyana.
The current Plant Protection Act under which the Plant Quarantine Service Unit operates does not comply with the requirements of international bodies and does not enable Plant Quarantine Inspectors/Officers to effectively execute the regulations. Rather, the authority to stop and search passengers is given to Customs Officers, who should then refer passengers with agriculture commodities to the Plant Quarantine Inspectors.
“This system does not operate, and as a result, infected/infested commodities can enter Guyana undetected. Also, the penalties which are stipulated under the Act for offenders do not serve as a deterrent since a person is fined G$50 or three months imprisonment for committing an offence under the Act.”
Mervyn Williams, the Agriculture Shadow Minister of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR), was concerned that too much power to enact the Animal Health Act will be given to technical staff of the Guyana Livestock Development Authority, a regulatory body of the Agriculture Ministry.
“This demoralized bunch of professionals will be charged with the implementation of this proposed legislation, once it becomes law. Some from among their number will be identified as ‘authorised officers’ under the law and given police powers to stop search and detain. It does not matter to the Minister that not one of these public servants has been trained in enforcement.”
Regarding the Seeds Bill, Williams claimed that it was the PNCR’s initiative that the current government has now taken over.
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