OECS laboratories receive new equipment

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CASTRIES, St Lucia, Mar. 26, CMC- Laboratories in Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member states are now better equipped to diagnose issues related to human, animal and plant health, and food safety, thus increasing their levels of efficacy and efficiency
The Castries based OECS Commission, through its Agriculture Unit, has handed over EC$300,000 worth of laboratory equipment to agriculture health and food safety (AHFS) testing laboratories and pest risk analysis units of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The new laboratory equipment was purchased under the 10th EDF Regional Integration and Trade of the OECS Region Project.
Programme officer in the Agriculture Unit of the OECS Commission, George Alcee, thanked the European Union for responding to the request for laboratory equipment, and for its continued support under the harmonisation and enhancement of OECS agriculture health and food safety systems.
Alcee said the programme, which started in 2012, has strengthened the health and food safety systems in the OECS.
The pest risk analysis support component of the programme involves the provision of training for all OECS countries to undertake science-based risk assessments, and provide quarantine policy advice, to protect plant health status, whilst facilitating trade.
It also involves the procurement of equipment to establish pilot labs in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, and St Lucia to safeguard against the entry of exotic pests, consistent with the International Plant Protection Convention.
The OECS Commission has trained over 30 quarantine inspectors, through the annual University of the West Indies (UWI) plant quarantine training programme.
The support to improving the quality infrastructure and testing capacity of labs in the OECS was manifested in training, with an eventual goal of certification or accreditation to ISO/IEC17025, and the provision of laboratory equipment, based on the testing needs of beneficiary countries.
A technician in each member state was trained in lab diagnosis for avian influenza (bird flu) and Newcastle disease. The training took place in Chile.
Alcee reiterated that the equipment is to assist the labs in their mandate to protect human, animal and plant health in their respective countries, and the OECS region as a whole.
He appealed to the lab managers and technicians to make the best use of the equipment, “as we continue to work towards safeguarding the OECS Economic Union from pests and disease.”
According to Alcee, achieving this goal is key to realising the free circulation of goods within the Economic Union.
OECS director general, Dr Didacus Jules, described the occasion as “a milestone in agricultural health and food safety in the region” as it relates to strengthening of the processes of compliance to international health and food safety standards and the establishment of a framework for the development of ‘Centres of Excellence’ and access to their services, by member states.
Jules stressed that “initiatives such as these in which we are building collaboration among member states, strengthening capacity, and providing tools for more scientific ways of working exemplify the work of the OECS Commission.”
The handing-over of equipment coincided with a three day meeting of agriculture health and food safety laboratory, sanitary and phytosanitary quarantine managers of the OECS which ended here Friday.

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