ST JOHN’S, Antigua – With food safety and security high on its agenda, the Veterinary and Livestock Division within the Ministry of Agriculture will be working towards Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) certification for local farmers.
In 2010, the ministry embarked on the programme to get farmers engaged in GAP. About nine of approximately 1,500 farmers registered have received certification.
Diahann Gomes, animal health assistant in Antigua & Barbuda, said GAP certification will assist in combating hunger, reduce poverty, boost exports and reduce the impact of climate changes.
“We are hoping that once they are certified there will be some incentives. It simply means whatever they do is produced in a particular way. The animals are kept in certain humane condition and your level of production is not business as usual,” she said.
Gomes said the first step is to sensitise farmers that what they are producing is for human consumption so that it is very important that whatever is done is according to best practices.
Certified farms are awarded with a certification mark, a safety stamp, which can be used to distinguish their produce from others in the market thereby enhancing their profile and market access.
For the retailers and importers, the GAP certification scheme is an added tool for sourcing vegetable supplies from quality farms. In addition, product traceability in the certification system ensures the consumers food safety assurance from reliable sources.
Gomes defined GAP in livestock as a series of technical requirements for producing food animals resulting in safe and wholesome products, enhanced marketability, productivity and profitability of the producer.
“There are certain specifications, and therefore, when the farmers now become certified, the restaurateurs and the people at the supermarket would know that this meat, this egg is of the best quality and that is what we are aiming towards,” Gomes added.
Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture Owalabi Elabanjo said co-operation is the key to achieving GAP in Antigua & Barbuda.
Elabanjo said most farmers here operate on very small farms and to become GAP certified they would have to work together to improve their worker conditions.
The ministry intends to encourage the larger farmers to be fully certified, and then this will trickle down to the smaller farmers.
A time line is not set as to when the farmers are expected to be fully certified.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)