St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The OECS Commission is continuing its efforts to deepen the integration process.
That’s according to the outgoing Chairman of the OECS Authority, Prime Minister Timothy Harris.
“I would say that we continue our efforts and this is of course a work in progress matter, and the commission continues its work on a number of matters including issues to do with the further deepening of the integration process, the free circulation of goods among the union and transport, and while some of them have not been brought to definitive conclusion they are matters over which we have to continue to labour to get them there. Some of them are very involved and very complex.”
OECS Director General Didacus Jules cites progress being made in the area of shipping agricultural produce, through the efforts of the OECS Commission.
“Recently we started an agri-shipping initiative with two refrigerated boats from private sector entities, that approached us and said they would really like to get something going to jump start the regional trade and in fact we took a very simple approach to doing this, we were very transparent, we first set up a whatsapp group with all the ministers of agriculture, directors of agriculture, focal points for the initiatives identified by them. The captains of the boats, and some of the key buyers and shippers that would be involved in this initiative. There were town hall meetings in some of the countries that are the largest agricultural producers like Grenada and St. Vincent for example and we said to the shippers that this is an imperfect process but the good thing is we are going to build a road as we walk it. So as we come across roadblocks we will look to resolve those roadblocks and in the process too we will be seeking to progressively lift standards.”
The OECS official says as a result of the initiative, there is currently in excess of two million dollars of agricultural trade happening across the region.
“We signed an agreement with a company in Trinidad and Tobago called Buddies, they are the major suppliers of agricultural produce to the Massy chain and Walmart and they have given us a list of products that they are interested in buying and as much as we can produce they can ship. We’ve moved from a situation where the initial shipments were done in crocus bags to now being properly boxed like the Windward Islands Banana boxes. The next stage to that is to label those boxes properly as OECS produce, we’ve started all the phytosanitary procedures for the proper cleaning and treatment of the food coming across. We are intending also in the near future to be at the point where we can identify the geo-location of food so that we know from which farm every box has come so that there can be traceability of the product.”
Dr Jules says the process is being fine-tuned further in a bid to enhance the product.