Officials have identified a weak legislative framework and a shortage of manpower as two of the main limitations to greater enforcement of standards and quality at the ports of entry in Barbados and other Caribbean states.
In fact, they have indicated that such shortcomings have resulted in some inferior products entering countries.
The issue was raised during a recent virtual media sensitisation session on the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Technical Barriers to Trade Programme.
While the Barbados National Standards Institution (BNSI) is responsible for helping to put infrastructure in place to promote and encourage standards and quality, it is the responsibility of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to enforce quality and standards in Barbados.
Acting Director of the BNSI, Hadyn Rhynd, responding to a question from TODAY’S Business, said enforcement of standards remained a challenge for Barbados.
“One of the gaps that we have would be, in part, the legislation. In other words, there are areas we can tighten and certainly areas that can be more inclusive for our legislation,” said Rhynd.
“Because of our region and location, if we don’t have strong quality inspection systems at our ports of entry, we are subjected to a little bit of dumping from some territories where people would say ‘perhaps the Barbados market shops and purchases mainly on cost as opposed to quality’. We may have an inspectorate that, on the very basic level, may look at labelling, but when you really expect full functionality, they really need to be supported by the standards on the ground in terms of the local standards and your legislation.”
He said in relation to manpower, there was only a “handful” of inspectors within the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and he suggested that this could contribute to a breakdown in oversight of goods entering the market.
“How many commodities do we have in Barbados? So, for all that we import, do we have an adequate inspectorate in terms of the resources? And perhaps the answer to that is that it could be improved,” said Rhynd.
Echoing similar sentiments, CROSQ Technical Officer of Metrology David Tomlinson said for sure the lack of manpower was a challenge.
He added that if countries did not have adequate legislation in place, enforcement becomes very difficult.
“Sadly, some of our legislation is old, and it is not Barbados alone but throughout the region. Some of them have been in place since the 1960s when we got independence. So, it is to update the legislation to make them fit within the new international context, to be able to accept things from other countries,” said Tomlinson.
He disclosed that the relevant pieces of legislation were currently being reviewed in Barbados, but he would only say that this work was being done in collaboration with the BNSI and the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
“You will hear about it in coming weeks. There is a lot of work going on to improve the systems that exist, to make them better able to enforce,” said Tomlinson.
The CROSQ is also said to be strengthening its networks throughout the region so that technical officers could better interact with each country and share information across borders, to help improve systems through the region.
Under the 11th EDF Technical Barriers to Trade Programme, which is being implemented in CARIFORUM states, countries are to receive assistance in several areas.
The €4.5 million (approximately US$5.3 million) programme, is intended to assist countries in closing gaps related to quality and standards, improve and promote quality infrastructure, provide training in several related areas, and strengthen regional framework governing standards, metrology, accreditation, among other areas.