Poor plant bio-security: A threat to regional food security integration

Poor plant bio-security: A threat to regional food security integration

   Poor plant bio-security: A threat to regional food security integration By Newton Vusa Sibanda While intra-regional agricultural trade can reduce food insecurity and be a stepping stone to industrialization, poor bio-security control capacity remains a major obstacle to trade in agricultural products, and can therefore limit income and food security of farmers, according to recent bio-security meeting. Indeed, biosecurity experts from 10 Central and East African countries met in Lusaka ( Zambia) recently for the fourth Africa Plant Biosecurity Network workshop.    Common Market The network meetings are a key component of the Australia-Africa Plant Biosecurity Partnership (AAPBP. It brought together African biosecurity professional fellows and industry members from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe with Australian biosecurity colleagues to share information, provide ongoing mentoring, and boost training and outreach. It also improved national and regional quarantine and plant protection capacity, thereby lifting crop yields, enabling safe regional trade, expanding international market access opportunities and securing greater food security for the region. Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) secretary General Sindiso Ngwenya is upbeat about the prospects of regional integration and called for efforts to address constraints such as poor bio-security control capacity. Mr Ngwenya said that a key result of regional integration should be increased intra-regional trade. Intra-regional trade has indeed increased from US$3.2 billion in 2000 when the free trade area (FTA) was launched to around US$20 billion. “However, this still amounts to less than 10 percent of total trade with the world. The secretariat has done a study to show that although intra-COMESA trade is currently low, there is a potential trade worth US$82 billion,” he said. “We need to work out how to realise that enormous potential,” Mr Ngwenya added. To him, many of COMESA’s 19 member states heavily dependent on agriculture, the production and trade of agricultural produce is of high priority. “Intra-regional agricultural trade can  reduce food insecurity, so we must address constraints to this trade such as biosecurity,” Mr Ngwenya said. “Those army worms do not need visas to cross borders. As COMESA, we are trying to open borders for free movement but not in a devastating manner like army worms,” he claimed. He attributed the lower intra-regional trade to costs of non-tariff measures, including sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) or biosecurity, which he said are higher than they need to be.  COMESA is leading studies to examine the actual costs of SPS measures,  and how they can be reduced without affecting the levels of protection they are designed to provide, he recalled. Agriculture: challenges Zambia’s acting minister of Agriculture Jean Kapata said agriculture is a priority sector in Zambia as...

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