By Robin Dopoe Jr.
John Oppong-Otoo, the lead facilitator of a two-day workshop on the formation of the National Codex and National Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary Committees, has said that standards are crucial for the development of any nation, and undoubtedly form the basis for trade and public health protection.
Codex is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations relating to food, food production, and food safety.
Countries with a strong culture of compliance to standards have experienced enhanced consumer protection, better market access for their products and increased economic development, Mr. Otoo said.
He explained that although the African continent is endowed with vast agricultural resources, the full potential of using agriculture to drive economic development on the continent is yet realized due to the lack of value addition and the inability to comply with the SPS (sanitary and phyto-sanitary)requirements of importing countries.
Otoo said that codex has become very important in international trade. “Products that comply with the standards of codex and SPS are deemed to be safe and fit for trade; therefore, the establishment of these two committees will help Liberia position itself as a nation that respects standards.
“The standards developed by the ISSO have therefore become an important global reference point for consumers, food producers and processors, national food control agencies and all those involved in the international food, animal and plant trade.
“The coming into force of these committees will bring about the implementation of ISSO standard, which will enable the country to adequately respond to existing and emerging SPS issues and also permit better participation of a country in the standard setting processes on the ISSOs,” he said.
Mr. Otoo narrated that the lack or inadequate knowledge of SPS issues, weak SPS structures, inadequate knowledge of the standard-setting processes of the ISSOs, and the lack of funding for SPS activities are some of the challenges hindering effective implementation of ISSO standards in a country like Liberia.
“These challenges,” Otto said, “make it difficult for countries like Liberia to take full advantage of the multilateral trading system.
“Therefore, it is very important for member states of the WTO like Liberia to participate actively in the work of the WTO SPS Committee since this committee provides an open negotiation platform for raising specific trade concerns on SPS requirements that have the potential to or will impact negatively on a member state’s exports,” he said.
To address these challenges, he said the African Union’s Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) has started establishing or strengthening the National Codex Committees and National SPS Committees and also training experts in member states to enable them to better respond to SPS issues that are critical for their trade.
In remarks, the assistant minister for industry, Mohammed Turay, said the workshop is the result of government’s plan to build an effective and functional codex and national SPS structure.
Min. Turay added that Liberia is currently in the process of setting up its National Codex Committee and Codex Contact Point.
“Moreover, Liberia recently acceded to the WTO. Training on WTO SPS issues is needed for officials involved in various SPS activities in order to update national officials on current trends and issues in the field of SPS.
“This workshop’s aims will enhance the capacities of members of the National Codex Committee (NCC) of Liberia, as well as the SPS Committee to effectively participate in the works of CAC, OIE, IPPC and the WTO SPS Committee, as well as developing a National Codex and SPS Action Plan,” he said.