Produce exporters to US face onerous documentation
-as part of bio-terror regulations By Oscar P. Clarke
Stabroek News
November 3, 2003

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Local exporters of fresh and processed foods to the United States face onerous new regulations to document their suppliers as part of the US war on bio-terrorism.

The Bio Terrorism Act, which was passed last year becomes enforceable on December 15 and will impact on local exporters who trade in fresh fruits, vegetables and seafood. The legislation requires that exporters of fresh and processed foods provide to the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) the identities of all truckers, side men, packers and freight forwarders and agents accepting goods on behalf of the shippers, all of whom have to be named in declarations within 24 hours of the goods’ movement.

The Ministry of Fisheries, Crops and Livestock is among several departments that benefited from a meeting recently hosted by the US Embassy at which exporters were briefed on the requirements of the new laws.

The decision to hold the seminar was taken to inform and prepare exporters for the onerous documentation expected.

Permanent Secretary, Bhowan Balkarran recently said that exporters had been given about two months to put themselves in order to satisfy the new requirements.

According to Balkarran, the demands on the exporter require that several records be kept, all of which need to be electronically formatted.

It is his belief that enough time has been given for exporters to comply with the requirements while emphasising that they need to keep a structured record and documentation system in place.

The PS in outlining some of the requirements said the exporter as specified in the act would have to provide information as regard species, quantities and suppliers.

The exporters would be required to keep up-to-date records on all the different suppliers even if it involved the same type of produce.

Balkarran, although acknowledging that the process could see some teething problems, said it did not require significant infrastructure other than maintaining accurate records.

Jamaican exporters have been granted an extension to the December 15 deadline for compliance with the procedures and intricacies of the regulations governing the US Bio Terrorism Act.

The extension, likely to last for four months, is to facilitate exporters properly acquainting themselves with the procedures.

During this time, goods will be allowed to enter US markets but exporters have to be registered with the USFDA, a US official told a forum in Kingston on Thursday.

These goods will also be allowed on the basis that they do not have any known contaminants.

Meanwhile, the local maritime industry seems to have taken the lead in discussing possible effects anti-terrorism regulations may have for that sector particularly as it relates to trade with the US.

This was emphasised at the opening of the first seminar on maritime security recently when Minister of Transport and Hydraulics Anthony Xavier alluded to requirements under the new United States Maritime Transportation Anti-Terrorism Act, which requires security assessments in ports of countries doing business with the US.

This Act gives US Coast Guard Officials the right to deny entry to any ship that does not meet security standards or arrives from a port lacking adequate anti-terrorism procedures, Xavier said.

According to the minister, the said legislation requires by 2005 that all ships operating in US waters be equipped with electronic transponders that identify them and provide information about their location.

The seminar was designed to give the local maritime community an opportunity to discuss the details of the new International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS), which will come into effect in July 2004.

Xavier said the code would bring Guyana’s shipping industry in line by ensuring that the facilities, structures, personnel and procedures were in keeping with the new regulations.

“It is not a question any longer as to whether Guyana will adopt these changes. It is only a question of time before the resources are allocated to meet what is certainly a costly transformation process”, he added.