T&T removing honey importation restrictions – Minister Rambharat

T&T Agri. Min., Clarence Rambharat (second left), with Guyana's Ministers of State, Agriculture and Business, Joseph Harmon (left); Noel Holder and Dominic Gaskin (Photo via Guyana Chronicle)
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(Guyana Chronicle) TRINIDAD and Tobago’s Minister of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries Clarence Rambharat has confirmed that plans are in the works for the island to remove restrictions on importation of honey from Grenada, Guyana and possibly other Caribbean countries.

Rambharat spoke to the media on the matter on Wednesday at State House where he accompanied T&T Prime Minister Keith Rowley for the renewing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Guyana on energy.

The non-conformity of Trinidad and Tobago’s legislation governing the importation of honey has been a long-standing issue raised even at the 36th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in 2013.

The twin island republic had initially restricted the importation of honey from Grenada and other Caribbean countries due to concerns about being affected by the American Foul Brood (AFB) disease.

The contagious disease of honey bees, for which there is no cure, is caused by a spore-forming bacteria which has the potential to kill entire colonies of honey bees, even infecting beekeeping equipment in the process.

Trinidad and Tobago’s honey, bees and bee products are guided by the island’s age-old Food and Drug Act of 1960 and Beekeeping and Bee products Act of 1935.
Both of these, however, are not in keeping with the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC) as highlighted by COTED and has led to the total prohibition of honey from other countries to the island.

In 2012, a portion of Grenada’s honey was confiscated, while a U.S.$3,000 fine was imposed on Guyanese company Laparkan in 2015 for coming within one mile of the island’s shores.

COTED has since stipulated that Trinidad and Tobago’s legislation be amended to provide for the trade in honey from its fellow member states, but by that body’s 42nd meeting, these conditions had not changed.

Providing an update to the media, Rambharat said that plans are in train to address the concerns raised by both countries.

“We have a complaint report to COTED from Grenada. We’ve agreed on a particular approach with Grenada, so right now we’re in process of doing the Risk Survey Analysis in Grenada. We’ll do the same in Trinidad. We have CAHFSA (Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency) engaged in doing that and we will move things along,” he stated.
Further questioned, he added that similar Risk Analysis Surveys could also be conducted in Guyana.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Rowley also stated: “We did discuss it this morning and the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have agreed that we will look at it and…[with hope that we are] satisfied that there are no phytosanitary risks we should not ignore. We will look [at] it with at an eye to furthering the business of Guyana without risking the bio diversity of Trinidad and Tobago but, that being said, we would be guided by the technical outcome.”

He added that the last event where the matter was raised at CARICOM, it was agreed that the CARICOM protocol should prevail and Rowley stated that Trinidad and Tobago would the said protocol.

Guyana’s apiculture industry is currently producing 11,300 gallons of honey annually, and by-products such as beeswax, pollen and royal jelly also contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

However, Rambharat further defended the twin island republic’s caution when it comes to the importation of honey, stating: “I’m not afraid to say that we’re very defensive on honey, because we have a very strong sector and a good record in management… honey is a particularly sensitive area. One of the reasons why we’ve been very slow in allowing honey from outside of Trinidad is because so far Trinidad has been able to maintain its honey disease-free.”

Rambharat also upheld the country’s sanctioning of shipping company Laparkan, but added that considerations are being made towards adjusting current regulations.

“The law is specific in terms of in transit and honey landing in Trinidad and remaining in Trinidad. We’ve committed to have another look at the law to see if we could create that environment in which we could allow in transit once it doesn’t stain the country and it’s something we have to look at. [We will also look at] the risk of it being transshipped as opposed to staying in Trinidad,” the T&T Minister said.

At the same function, Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Noel Holder said while the process is taking quite some time, “I’m satisfied with what Prime Minister Holness said that COTED will handle that.”

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