Senate approves amendments to Processed Food Act and Regulations

Saturday, October 21, 2017

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KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — The Senate, yesterday approved amendments to the Processed Food Act and Processed Food (General) Regulations, 1959, during its sitting at Gordon House.

The amendments aim to remove export certificate requirement of entities to facilitate implementation of the Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA), a web-based system platform designed to transform the Jamaica Customs Agency (JCA) into a paperless operation through the use of electronic documents.

Acting Leader of Government Business and State Minister in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Pearnel Charles Jr, who piloted the Bill said the move is in keeping with the Government's policy to enhance efficiency in trade and commerce.

He said removal of the export certificate stipulation will shorten the procedure for processed food exportation.

Charles said this represents a positive step towards engendering a more trade-facilitatory regime and bringing Jamaica further in line with international best practices which recommend a risk-based approach to production.

“The Jamaica Customs Agency has taken specific measures to ensure that the end users are equipped with the capacity to use this (ASYCUDA) system. The Jamaica Customs Agency also states that the ASYCUDA World has resulted in a greater positive outlook for trading across borders,” he informed.

Charles emphasised that the paperless approach is “necessary for us in Jamaica to maximise efficiency…[as] it promotes greater insights and improvements in our country's trade and economy.”

He further said that the JCA has indicated it could not incorporate the export certificate component of the Processed Food Act into the ASYCUDA system and has, along with the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, recommended its removal.

The ASYCUDA, which was implemented in Jamaica in 2016, is being used in 90 other countries, of which 72 utilise the version that has been rolled out locally.

Government Senator, Don Wehby, said the amendments fit squarely into the new National Export Strategy.

The strategy reinforces the priority being given to exports in respect of the Government's economic growth targets, and further defines a goal of achieving US$2.5 billion in earnings by 2020.

Wehby said the Government's strategic goals for export include: increasing export-led investment; expanding export reach globally; and advocating for reductions in barriers to trade.
“The removal of barriers to trade, which include the changes that are being discussed here today, is essential to successfully achieving our strategic goals for export,” he added.

Wehby emphasised that ASYCUDA is a game changing technology tool that is pivotal in facilitating trade.

“We need to continue this focus on bringing processes and systems in line with new technologies. We must also be constantly looking at new world technologies and how we can improve the ASYCUDA on an ongoing basis,” he said.

Opposition Senator, Sophia Fraser Binns, who supported the Bill, noted that Jamaica remains a “paper-based society” and argued that the multiplicity of documents required for imports and exports “are actually hindrances to commercials undertakings.”

“As we move forward, in making us more competitive [globally] and making it easier to do business, these are some of the things that we have to look at [addressing],” she said.

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