The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) has adopted two regional standards – both of which have been in development for a number of years.
The region now has a common Specification for Cement, and a Code of Practice for Organic Production and Processes, both of which have been hailed as major developments by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).
“We’ve had a number of problems with trading of cement in the region of late, and so CARICOM through the COTED requested that a regional standard be developed for cement. The standard has been under development from as far back as 2007 and we finally got consensus throughout the Member States for the adoption of the regional cement standard,” said CROSQ’s Technical Officer – Standards, Mr. Fulgence St. Prix.
He noted though that because standards by nature are voluntary, he hoped that Member States would now put the necessary legislative framework in place to cause mandatory adoption of the standard which would cause all cement traded within the community to meet the requirements of this regional standard.
“In other words, we are looking to see if it can be the subject of a technical regulation and if that is the case then it means that no cement not meeting that standard will be able to enter any of the Member States. That is the intention.”
This issue is historic, not only because of the length of time it has taken to get to this point, but because of the methodology involved in its development.
“The standards development process calls for consensus and it was challenging in the sense that you have Member States using different standards. For instance, in Suriname and Haiti the standards they would have used to produce cement would have been based on the European standard, and the other Member States would have been using the ASTM Standards. So you needed to get some form of equivalence between the two standards and that is where we had the challenge, being able to strike a balance between the two standards. Although you might have similarities between the two standards, the European Standard and the ASTM standard, you would have to establish equivalence because they were more or less not the same.
“What we did to overcome the challenges, we adopted a new modality in terms of the standards development – first time we have ever done that – where we just referenced those international standards to be used. So cement conforming to those international standards would have been deemed to conform to that regional standard, and thus we would have been able to take care of the manufacturers who use the European standards and the ASTM standards.”
The technical officer said with this new approach, the possibility existed for this modality to be used in future standards’ development, further expressing thanks to the technical officers of the numerous national standards bureaus, as well as their directors, who worked to get the standard approved.
“The other standard we got acceptance for was a Code of Practice for Organic Production and Processes. It was part of an IDB SME project where the industry was asking for a code of practice because organic production is something new in the region and people are recognising the immense opportunity in that area.”
The standard, which is based on the CODEX Alimentarius standard code of practice for organic foods, went through numerous revisions from as far back as 2009 to encompass organic food production and the processes as well.
Mr. St. Prix noted: “I know a number of the Member States do have an organic farming community and associations and they are all affiliated to the international organic farming community. So we did have an international organic organisation commenting on the standard and making their input on the standard. So we feel happy about that because at the end of the day it means that it will be accepted by the international community as well.”
It is hoped now that this code of practice can be used by the farming communities in Member States as a tool for certification.
“It also means that an organic production and processes certification can be developed using that standard. What we need to do now is develop further relationships with a certification body which offers certification of these products. We are hoping we can do it regionally and I know Jamaica was very interested in going that way in establishing a certification scheme and I will recommend that we work alongside them to develop a regional organic production and processes certification scheme, where the certification can be provided by regional certification bodies who are working towards international recognition. So once the certification bodies have attained the requisite international recognition we could soon have our organic products be on the world market thereby providing much needed income to our farmers and our economies by extension,” Mr. St. Prix concluded.