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T&T’s refusal of Guyanese dairy products an insult to regional integration – Govt

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…T&T Govt denies rejection of milk, claims importer returned item

…58th COTED meeting underway in Guyana under T&T chairmanship

The Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry had very strong words for Trinidad and Tobago’s (T&T) decision to block dairy imports from Guyana, calling it an unacceptable affront to ongoing regional integration efforts.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs slammed reports that Trinidad had refused $20 Million worth of milk imports from Guyanese company Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL).

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations Hugh Todd

According to the Ministry, the Guyana Livestock Development Agency (GLDA) is currently in close contact with Trinidadian counterparts, to reach a timely resolution. But the Ministry slammed Trinidad’s decision to refuse the goods, noting that it was an affront to the spirit of Caribbean integration.
“It is noted that under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) to which both Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana subscribe, requires free movement of goods and services under the regional integration framework.”
“The refusal of entry to the dairy products wholly produced in Guyana by CARICOM member state is an affront to the spirit of Caribbean integration agenda and must not be accepted,” the Ministry said.

T&T Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon, during the COTED meeting

While they acknowledged that regional products must satisfy sanitary and other rules, the Ministry also noted that the dairy products were in full compliance with these regulations. Moreover, they were accepted in other jurisdictions.
It was pointed out that Guyana has already opened its market to regional producers, hence it is expected that products from Guyana should be guaranteed the full benefits of regional integration.
“While some details about the transaction and what led to the incident are still being discussed, the Guyana Livestock Development Agency (GLDA) remains in close contact with its counterparts in Trinidad and Tobago, the exporter and the importer to resolve this matter within the shortest possible time,”
“Guyana remains committed to ensuring that nationals who wish to exercise or take advantage of rights granted by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and other regional protocol under the integration agenda, are not unduly restricted. Guyana has opened its market to regional producers, it is expected that market access for products from Guyana into any CARICOM country is guaranteed for full benefits of regional integration to be realized.”

Blocked shipment
On Tuesday, DDL Chairman Komal Samaroo had revealed that four 20 ft shipping containers of packaged milk and bottled water were recently blocked by Trinidadian authorities from entry. During an emergency press conference, Samaroo revealed that the milk, worth $20 Million, was sent back, while the sale of the water was restricted.
“This development is of grave concern to DDL, since it inhibits its ongoing efforts to meaningfully contribute to the food security efforts of the CARICOM region. DDL exported to Trinidad and Tobago during the month of March, four 20ft shipping containers of these products based on an evaluation of the Trinidad market by a Trinidadian business enterprise, which determined a desire for these products by the Trinidadian consumers,” Samaroo had said.
“Regrettably, the two containers of packaged milk were denied entry and returned to Guyana, while the bottled water products have been restricted from sale pending the completion of an unconventionally exhaustive examination of these bottled water products,” Samaroo had also explained to the media.
He further related that on May 13, DDL had engaged with a team from the Trinidadian Ministry of Trade, where the topic of the rejected milk exports was discussed. According to Samaroo, the officials informed them that blocking the imports of the milk was based on Trinidad’s Animal Disease and Importation Act 2020. However, Samaroo described this process as “onerous and stringent.”
Samaroo had also noted that these products have been exported to other Caricom territories with no such problems. As such, this is the first time they’ve encountered non-tariff trade barriers during their exports of their diversified line of products.
The executive also confirmed that Caricom Chairman, President Dr Irfaan Ali, was briefed on the situation. According to him, President Ali was “very shocked” and he added that he was confident the President would take action. He also assured that they would be pursuing every avenue to ensure redress is received, even hinting at the possibility of approaching the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

T&T Govt denies
Meanwhile on Wednesday evening, the T&T Trade and Industry Ministry in a statement said that it has noted the on-going issue relating to the trade in milk products between Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.
It added that based on a review of this matter, it must note that there is no prohibition on the importation of Animal Products into Trinidad and Tobago from any Caricom Member State including Guyana. However, for these products to be exported to Trinidad and Tobago, countries must be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries (MALF). This is a one-time approval associated with first- time exports.
“Trinidad and Tobago like every country within CARICOM and the rest of the world follows the generally accepted international standards under the auspices of the World Organisation for Animal Health for the trade in Animal Products. These standards which are meant to ensure the health and safety of consumers are operationalised within domestic law via the Animal (Diseases and Importation) Act; The existing standard for the importation of milk into Trinidad and Tobago (which is identical in Guyana) requires all importers to apply for an import permit from the Animal Production and Health Division (MALF). This application must be made in advance of the products arriving in Trinidad and Tobago and even before items are purchased from overseas exporters,” the statement read.
It added that in order for an Import Permit to be issued for ‘first-time’ imports of milk from any country, a Risk Analysis is required to be undertaken by the Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO). This information was communicated to the Local Importer by the CVO on Friday 19 April 2024 which was the same date an application was submitted on TTBizlinK for an animal permit;
“On Monday 22 April 2024 a consignment of goods which included (i) Milk; (ii) Mineral Waters; and Flavoured Beverages landed in Trinidad and Tobago. Upon arrival in Trinidad and Tobago, the Mineral Waters and Favoured Beverage items were cleared and sent to the premises of the Importer by the Chemistry Food and Drugs Division (CFDD) on the condition that the Importer produces a Free Sale Certificate/Animal Health Permit; and…with respect to the Milk Items, the Importer took the decision to return these products to the Exporter in Guyana as it did not possess the requisite regulatory documentation,” the T&T Ministry added.

COTED meeting
Incidentally, export woes to Trinidad come at a time when the 58th Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) is ongoing. At the opening session on Tuesday, Trinidadian Minister of Trade and Industry, Paula Gopee-Scoon, who chaired the session, had highlighted the matters on the Ministers’ agenda, including the movement of Community nationals, the status of the CARICOM Competition Commission, a mergers and acquisitions policy, trade in goods, and the review of the Common External Tariff (CET) and Rules of Origin (ROO).
However, there had also been reports of an expected meeting between her and the Guyana government to address the specific instance of T&T turning away the DDL milk exports. But efforts to contact Guyana’s Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Oneidge Walrond, were futile. (G3)

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