Hon. Dr. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier and Minister for Labour and Natural Resources.
Photo Credit: BVI Platinum News
Deputy Premier and Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, Hon. Kedrick Pickering has assured that the Territory is moving towards the implementation of the International Health Regulation, which must go into effect by 2014.
The assurance was given at the 5th Meeting of the Caribbean Plant Health Directors held at Scrub Island on Tuesday, August 14.
According to the Minister, the Ministry of Health and Social Development is spearheading the effort, while the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour through the Department of Agriculture is integrally working closely with Her Majesty's Customs Department and the Environmental Health Division to ensure the Territory's two primary ports of entry become certified as per the requirement of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"So far, a series of meetings have been held which is inclusive of the private and public sectors, to raise awareness on the requirements of the regulations and our gaps and strengths," Minister Pickering pointed out.
He also shared that the Territory is working with regional counterparts as a member of the safeguarding Technical Working Group (STWG) which held its first meeting in the BVI at Treasure Isle Hotel in January, 2011.
"This newly established working group provides a forum where new and innovative ideas, as well as, methods and procedures for safeguarding are explored by a subset of experienced officials and scientists operating in the region. Colleagues, a huge part of our strategic agricultural plan is training so that we have the capacity on staff to deal with this vexing pest problem," the Minister stated.
He added that to stay ahead of the curve, the Government has seen it fit to train agricultural professionals to deter and mitigate against pests reaching the borders.
He pointed out that Isha Hodge received training in Plant Quarantine Principles and Procedures in August 2011 and Sylvia Faulkner was trained in the second cohort in July of this year. Additionally, he said Josette Allen was also trained in Lepidoptera Identification in September 2011.
Minister Pickering noted that the BVI hosted a workshop on the Identification of Fruit Flies of Economic Importance in collaboration with APHIS and USDA where eleven quarantine officers were trained as well as representatives from across the region.
The Minister also spoke about the potential impacts of changes in climate to agriculture such as increase in pests, weeds, diseases and invasive species will continue to create demand and challenges for the region.
"That is why we must continue to partner with each other to ensure the best agricultural practices become the norm to reduce the impact to our respective countries," Minister Pickering stated.
He recalled that in 1995, this Territory saw an infiltration of the Pink Mealy Bug infecting crops and the relentless efforts of agricultural professionals to take a multi-prong approach to address the issue.
The Minister shared that he also learned about the threats of other exotic pests such as the Red Palm Mite, the Giant African Snail, Citrus Greening, Citrus Canker, Fruit Flies, Red Palm Weevil and Frosty Pod in cocoa.
"These pests can reduce food production, upset the ecological balance of the environment and endanger our biological resources if they are not contained...With this threat hovering over us, it is obvious then, that we need to devise a multidimensional approach to prevent these pests from invading our respective countries," Minister Pickering stated.
He added that it is also important to note that as the region, and indeed the world, moves towards integration on many fronts we are all susceptible to common threats.
"Certainly as it relates to trade, the likelihood of these pests moving from one jurisdiction to another becomes very real," the Minister said.