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OECS Facilitates Training of Agricultural Plant Health Officers

Nine agriculture and plant health specialists were recently trained in the areas of Nematology, Entomology and Plant Pathology, as the OECS continues to work with partners to safeguard the region from pests and invasive species.

The four-day virtual training, hosted by the OECS Commission in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA); the United States Department of Agriculture, under the Greater Caribbean Safeguarding Initiative (GCSI); and the Ministry of Agriculture in Saint Lucia, was facilitated by the University of Florida from January 26-29, 2021.

The main objective of the training was to enhance the plant health diagnostic capabilities of the Saint Lucia Diagnostic Laboratory in an effort to facilitate increased agricultural production and trade, which meet international standards, while protecting plant and human health.

This initial training forms part of a larger effort towards a Regional Reference Laboratory, that will aid in improved pest diagnostic services in the OECS Member States and the wider region; and strengthen plant health specialist surveillance and laboratory diagnostic capacity. Through the University of Florida, regional technicians will train with experts in the areas of Nematology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology.

Speaking at the virtual Opening Ceremony, Director of Economic Affairs and Regional Integration at the OECS Commission, Mrs. Jacqueline Emmanuel-Flood, stated:

“This training is a critical step in a comprehensive and ambitious programme at the OECS Commission that is geared towards strengthening systems for enhanced agriculture health and food safety in our region.”

“The ultimate aim of this exercise is to safeguard the region from pests and invasive species that may adversely affect food and nutrition security as well as the production and marketing of fresh and processed commodities in the agriculture and fisheries sectors.”

Emmanuel-Flood added: “The initiative must also be seen as an important intervention in the ongoing efforts of the Commission to establish a safe and free environment for the circulation of goods and services within the Eastern Caribbean Economic Union.”

Director of Agriculture at the Ministry of Agriculture in Saint Lucia, Dr. Auria King-Cenac, welcomed the training exercise, noting the timeliness of the endeavour: “This nematology course could not come at a better time as Saint Lucia recently opened the doors of its newly built National Agricultural Diagnostic Facility on December 10, 2020. We are confident that this training will enhance food security in Saint Lucia as many of our major crops are susceptible to nematode infestations.”

The initiative complements efforts by OECS Member States to safeguard the region from threats to food and nutrition security and production. With the support of partner institutions, Member States have been engaged in a series of activities geared towards the strengthening of systems for enhancing agricultural health and food safety in the region – consistent with the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement of World Trade Organization (WTO) Treaty and other international standards.

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