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May 2, 2012

Contaminated with feces in Jamaica; BAHA awaits report from Jamaica

On Friday we told you about the report in the Jamaica Observer, where it was reported that the Jamaican government seized an imported shipment of red kidney beans from Belize that was contaminated and considered unfit for consumption. Tests were conducted on the contaminant found and it was identified as rodent droppings. According to the article, the beans which were packed in seven hundred and fifty bags were discovered following routine inspection in Kingston Harbor. It is reported that the shipment is approximately twenty-two point seven-three metric tonnes of red kidney beans (red peas), valued at more than two point six million dollars. Francisco Gutierrez of the Belize Agricultural Health Authority (BAHA) says that although they haven’t received an official report from the Jamaican authorities, they are still investigating the matter. He says it’s the first time they have heard of such an occurrence involving Jamaica.

 

Francisco Gutierrez, Technical Director for Plant Health Services, BAHA

Francisco Gutierrez

“We don’t know anything officially at the moment from the Jamaican authorities. In terms of traded commodities, whenever there is non-compliance with one of our consignment, the authorities from the importing country should notify the authorities from the exporting country about what is the nature of the non-compliance. We have not gotten anything from Jamaica as yet. All that we have gotten is indirect feedback from the exporter here in Belize. The exporter has basically told us that he was notified or informed through his agent there and they detained a consignment of red kidney bean because they had found rodent droppings and they were submitting samples for diagnostics—take it to a laboratory for confirmation. Up to no, we haven’t received anything officially and that is the process. So I wouldn’t be able to tell you any more detail of what we know. We ourselves are made aware that there is a big story in Jamaica.  They had been claiming that Jamaica has a huge, massive rodent problem at the moment. They also mentioned that by the way they had really found something from Belize. We don’t know; we had never had an issue with Jamaica. We are still waiting an official response to see what is the story. Where they found it? Was it at the point of entry? Was it after release? Was it sitting in a warehouse when they found it? Could it have been contaminated there? So these are still questions that we ourselves have involved them. The ministry of foreign trade is also doing follow up on this situation.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So now they say that they pay for these inspections to be done. Are these inspections being done and are they being done properly?”

 

Francisco Gutierrez

“Yes the plant health department of BAHA is responsible for phytosanitary certification of consignments. Before these consignments go, our officers got to the packing facilities to do a thorough check of what is being packed. Our compliance basically is phytosanitary—ensuring that no pest is associated to the product. We are not aware that we needed more thorough food safety inspection because the issue would be a food safety inspection in any case. And so our officers check the bags, take samples, they verify that everything is clean including the container in which it is being exported is thoroughly cleaned, sanitized, etc and packaged. We then issue a phytosanitary certificate attesting to the cleanliness of the commodity. We are not going to deny that there is the possibility of contamination. Rats can crawl up into those containers if they are not properly sealed—sometimes they will have orifices whereby something can climb in.  We are not wailing out of any responsibility; it is just that it had never happened before. I understand the exporter here has a legal case. Again we are not hiding anything at the moment. We don’t know any more detail than what I have told you, but he is pursuing it legally in Jamaica. I’m not sure if he himself would want to give you more detail on what happens, but we are very worried about this situation. Of course he has a very reputable business to operate here in Belize and a clean operation going. It is of concern and we are fully investigating this issue—tracing it all the way back to Belize to see if something went wrong from our end here in Belize.”

 

Andrea Polanco

“So if it is from your end, from the end of BAHA that is, what really happens next? Will this mean maybe a negative repercussion for Belize and for BAHA by extension?”

 

Francisco Gutierrez

“Well it shouldn’t be; unless a country wants to play trade politics and try to be using it like an excuse to keep our products out of their country. Under trade negotiations and responsibilities, if you have an issue, then you should be given an opportunity to correct these problems or anomalies and continue trade. It would be very sad to see that a country would want to use something like this and use it as a barrier to trade. We are afraid that sometimes these things do happen. We’ve had experiences in the past—with not only the Caribbean, but some other countries in Central America—whereby things are used as an excuse to stop trade so that they can access trades from somewhere else and not really live up to their commitments and agreements.”

 

Gutierrez says that BAHA has been shipping commodities to Jamaica for many years now, including black eye peas and processed corn and there has never been any reported instance of non-compliance. He says that certificates are only issued under an inspection process.

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2 Responses for “Contaminated with feces in Jamaica; BAHA awaits report from Jamaica”

  1. Charlie Price says:

    WE need to set higher standards…IF WE WANT TO PLAY ON THE WORLD STAGE.

  2. Rain in the Face says:

    Sounds like a shakedown to me.

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