SADC Member States require renewed commitment in implementing sanitary and phytosanitary measures

The SADC Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinating Committee and the technical committees for Food Safety, Plant Protection and Livestock held the second round of their biennial meetings in Gaborone, Botswana from 29 to 31 January 2014.

The meetings’ main objectives were to discuss SPS issues affecting the region and to craft proposals for addressing them so that they do not become unnecessary barriers to trade whilst at the same time ensuring the protection of human, plant and animal life and health in the region.

At their previous meetings, the committees had devoted a significant amount of time to consolidating their structures and to developing operational process and procedures. These meetings were, however, a turning point in the sense that issues related to the effective implementation of the SPS Annex to the SADC Protocol on Trade were the substantive items on the agenda. Going forward, the region will see more and more specific SPS issues being addressed in support of safe trade in food and agro-products.

The plant and animal products that end up as food on tables are treated with pesticides and veterinary drugs and residual amounts of these chemicals in processed foods and feeds must be carefully monitored so that the amounts that humans and animals end up ingesting are below the limits that could cause them harm. Competent residue test laboratories are required to monitor the levels of drug residues in traded food and animal feeds in the region. For this reason, the Food Safety Technical Committee discussed at length, the need for establishment of reference laboratories in the region for residue testing.

The meeting also noted that some foodstuff that contain harmful substances and have been banned in other countries find their way into the SADC Region. Delegates agreed to urgently develop a regional “Rapid Alert System” for foods and animal feeds to be able to raise analarm from any regional location where such products are detected. Crop Production offers the SADC Region opportunities for accelerated economic growth, food security and increased trade, and has the benefit of strong linkages with other sectors of the economy. However, the sector is threatened by abiotic and biotic factors that include pests such as fungi, viruses, insects and weeds.

The diversity of crop pests continues to expand and new strains are continually evolving. During the Plant Protection Technical Committee meeting, the experts deliberated on technical issues aimed at formulating proposals and adopting common positions which are in the interest of preventing the introduction and spread of plant pests for enhanced food security and safe trade. These include, regionalisation, pest free areas, equivalence and harmonisation of phytosanitary measures.

The regional spread of plant pests is caused by both human activities and natural processes but is thought to be primarily the result of international freight transportation. The Committee noted the recent incursion of deadly pests such as Fusarium wilt of banana, Maize Lethal Necrosis Virus and Asian Fruit fly in the region and resolved that renewed Member States’ commitment in the implementation of phytosanitary measures was required.

The Livestock Technical Committee held a special technical training session with presentations on how to address specific animal life and health issues.

Published On: January 29, 2014|