OECS moving to deal with pests brought into the sub-region by travellers

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Dr.-Didacus-Jules

The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) says it is working with United States authorities in implementing a programme aimed at increasing the traveling public’s awareness of the risks associated with carrying food and agricultural items throughout the region.

The “Don’t Pack a Pest Outreach Programme”, which is being implemented with the assistance of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) is also regarded as an essential component of safeguarding agriculture and natural resources.

OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules (at head of table) in discussions with US officials

According to the OECS, at least 98 per cent of the entry of pests results from passenger traffic, which has been on an upward trend over the years, given the growth of the tourism industry and an increase in regional travel.

“With increased activities in the trade and tourism sector in the region, the risk of introducing potential invasive species also remain a major concern and raises a question on the institutional and technical capacities to control and manage pests to protect the environment and ensure the economic wellbeing of citizens,” the St. Lucia-based OECS Commission said in a statement.

It said that acknowledging the need to address that issue, a delegation from the USDA/APHIS held talks with the OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules on the implementation of the programme and the continued collaboration with the OECS on matters related to regional plant health safeguarding activities such as export certification, the regional plant quarantine principles and procedure training course.

The discussions also centered on the exchange of electronic phytosanitary certificates through the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) electronic hub.

Director of Safeguarding Initiative for the Greater Caribbean Dennis Martin, and agricultural scientist Renita Sewsaran, presented the Programme which seeks to draw traveller’s attention on the risks of transporting agricultural produce which may harbour pests in countries of the Eastern Caribbean.

Jules commended the assistance of USDA/ APHIS in building capacity to protect the region from pests over the past ten years and expressed full support with regards to this new sensitization campaign.

“I wish to further note the pioneering work done in support of our science-based systems to enhance regional biosecurity and the strengthening of regional and national pest mitigation activities to facilitate and enhance international trade of agricultural commodities through a collaborative process.

“We strongly support the traveler outreach programme and would like to see the programme implemented in all ports of the OECS. We look forward to continued collaborative working relationship with the USDA/APHIS that will redound to an improved quarantine and pest management infrastructure in the region,” he added.

The OECS said that USDA/APHIS and the OECS Commission have been maintaining a 10 year working relationship under which major projects advancing the management of pests have been implemented:

The OECS groups the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts-Nevis, Montserrat, Anguilla and the British Virgin Islands.

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