Vice President pledges commitment to exports, agricultural health

The 24th Agricultural Conference concluded with proposals to promote food security and international trade

Puerto Plata.- Here, the Vice-President of the Republic, Raquel Pena, underlined the Government’s commitment to promoting exports. He mentioned this issue in his closing speech at the 24th National Agricultural Leaders Conference.

On behalf of President Luis Abinader, he stressed the importance of health and safety in agricultural production, a fundamental pillar in promoting the export of Dominican products to international markets. “Health and safety are crucial for our products to enter global markets. We have a responsibility to ensure that the food we export is safe and meets international standards.” said the Vice President.

Peña stressed that national decision-making and public policy formulation will seriously consider the conclusions and recommendations of this important meeting. Furthermore, he stressed that the Ministry of Agriculture is implementing biosecurity measures to protect farmers and consumers. “We are working to strengthen biosecurity throughout the agricultural production chain. This includes adopting advanced technologies, training producers and promoting good agricultural practices,” Peña said.

He reiterated the government’s commitment to strengthening the export of Dominican products to international markets. In this sense, he emphasized that China is vigorously improving the quality and competitiveness of agriculture and animal husbandry.

He stressed the importance of cooperation between the public and private sectors to achieve greater success in promoting Dominican agricultural exports. “Together, we can grow our economy and improve the quality of life for our producers and our fellow citizens,” the Vice President concluded.

Agreements and conclusions reached

The 24th National Conference of Agricultural Sector Leaders concluded with an urgent call for concrete measures to guarantee agricultural health and food security in the Dominican Republic.

The event, held from September 6 to 8, 2023 at the Blue JackTar Conference Center in Puerto Plata Beach Dorada, brings together outstanding representatives of the country’s agriculture and livestock industries. Under the motto “Agricultural Health and Safety for Food and Nutrition Security in the Dominican Republic”, key topics were discussed and important conclusions and recommendations were reached.

One of the main conclusions of the conference was the need to update the legal framework related to plant and animal health, which dates back to 1959 and 1965 respectively.

Agricultural sector leaders stressed the importance of aligning these regulations with international standards and promoting cooperation between public and private entities involved in agricultural health.

Another key point highlighted in the conclusion is the management of additional resources through the ministries of finance, economy and legislation.

The goal is to enhance national agricultural product health and safety by allocating protected funds in the state budget.

Security at land, air and maritime borders is also a core issue. It is recommended to improve incineration services for contaminated products and manage international waste management to prevent pests and diseases from entering the country.

In terms of provision of human and technical resources, there is a need to strengthen the animal and plant health sector by training and hiring more technicians and veterinarians and acquiring equipment and logistical support for on-site inspections.

Special attention is also given to national health registration, biosecurity and information systems for cattle, poultry, pigs and sheep/goats. It is recommended to expand the formalization program of agrochemical and veterinary medicine stores.

The conclusion highlights the importance of veterinary laboratories and promotes the creation of reference laboratories and the expansion of diagnostic testing services in the livestock industry. There is also a call for the establishment of beneficial organism laboratories that will aid in the biological control of pests.

National integrated pest management plans and the development of contingency plans for potential quarantine pests were highlighted as areas of focus.

In terms of agricultural research, the need to intensify research on pests and diseases that currently affect the Dominican Republic or that may become threats in the future was emphasized.

The campaign also calls for investment in education, proposing to train at least 300 Dominican professionals in animal and plant health-related master’s degrees. It is also recommended to establish a scholarship scheme at the national level for agronomy and veterinary students.
The conference brought together 550 producers from across the country, including cassava, plantain, rice, banana, coffee, sugar cane, tobacco, poultry farmers, beekeepers and pulse growers.

What the Minister of Health said

Earlier, at the end of the day, Health Minister Daniel Rivera stressed the vital importance of guaranteeing the security of the basic foods that make up the basic food basket of the Dominican people. His statement was delivered within the framework of the 24th National Conference of Agricultural Sector Leaders, organized by the Dominican Agribusiness Council (JAD). During this highly relevant event, Rivera stressed that food security is a right enshrined in the Dominican Constitution and that it is the state’s responsibility to ensure its protection.

According to Article 61 of the Constitution of the Dominican Republic, all citizens have the right to comprehensive health, which means not only medical care but also improved nutrition, health services, sanitation and sanitation. In order to comply with this fundamental right, the state must ensure the food and nutritional security of its people.

In this context, Law No. 589-16 on Food and Nutritional Security of the Dominican Republic is considered an important regulatory framework. The law aims to coordinate actions to improve the quality of life of Dominicans and sets out the responsibilities of the Ministry of Public Health in food and nutrition surveillance and the promotion of healthy eating habits.

Rivera emphasized the importance of food consumption education, which is a shared responsibility of the Department of Public Health and the Department of Education. Promoting healthy eating habits and correct food preparation is essential to ensure the food and nutritional security of the population.

Furthermore, the Minister emphasized the relevance of the Codex Alimentarius, a set of international standards that plays an important role in ensuring food safety and quality worldwide. These standards are recognized by General Health Law No. 42-01 and are the basis for international food trade.

Food safety is a major issue that directly affects people’s health. Consumption of contaminated food can cause serious illness and have significant economic impact. Rivera said that globally, approximately 420,000 people died from ingesting contaminated food, resulting in 33 million disability-adjusted life years lost.

The minister detailed the major foodborne illnesses, which include Salmonella, Campylobacter, E. coli, Listeria, Vibrio cholerae, viruses such as norovirus and hepatitis A, parasites such as flukes and Taenia solium, and chemicals and heavy metals. To address these issues, the National Epidemiological Surveillance System (Sinave) implemented foodborne disease notification measures to allow for more effective monitoring and faster response to outbreaks.

Rivera also noted that climate change could increase contamination of staple foods such as rice, posing additional risks to populations at risk of malnutrition. Increased temperatures promote the survival and proliferation of foodborne pathogens.

Talking about the dietary habits of the Dominican people, the minister emphasized the importance of a diverse and balanced diet. Additionally, data from a nutrition study conducted on school beneficiaries of the Dominican Republic’s School Meal Program (PAE) during the 2021-2022 school year are presented. This research shows that a large proportion of pupils eat unhealthy diets and childhood obesity remains a major health problem.

At the end of his speech, the official emphasized the importance of cooperation between various departments to ensure food safety and promote healthy living habits. He also emphasized the importance of food labels in informing consumers of product contents and expiration dates, which can help make healthier choices and prevent foodborne illness.

Joel Santos and his exhibition

During the second moment of the meeting, Minister of the Presidency Joel Santos Echavarría discussed food security from an economic and development perspective. With the title “Agricultural Health and Safety in the Dominican Republic for Food and Nutritional Security”, Santos emphasized the country’s important role in ensuring food security and its outstanding performance in the international economic context.

Minister Santos particularly emphasized the responsibilities of producers of various foods that are an important part of the Dominican diet, such as rice, cassava, beans, chicken, eggs and vegetables. He recognized the work of producers and highlighted the support provided by the government of President Luis Abinader, especially through financing, including zero-interest loans through the Agricultural Bank.

Although Agricultural Bank of China general manager Fernando Duran was not present at the event, Santos mentioned him as a key ally in promoting loans to the productive sector. Santos also emphasized that the government issued Decree No. 610-22, which prioritizes the purchase of agricultural raw materials from small farmers, which strengthens the production chain and market access.

The Minister of the Presidency emphasized the importance of land titles, mentioning that the Permanent National Land Titles Commission and the Dominican Land Institute have granted more than 46,798 titles, which helps small producers obtain financing for your projects.

Santos also mentioned the alliance between the Sur Futuro Foundation and the Special Fund for Agricultural Development (FEDA), which aims to promote projects that benefit agricultural producers, including financing pumping systems for irrigation and community supply.

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