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US to boost trade ties with Gambia

May 6, 2010, 2:19 PM | Article By: Sainey M.K. Marenah

The United States will continue to push for more trade ties between the US and The Gambia, according to the chief American diplomat in The Gambia, Ambassador Barry L Wells.

The head of mission at the US Embassy in Banjul, Ambassador Wells, was speaking yesterday at the opening of a US Embassy-sponsored training workshop on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), held at Kairaba Beach Hotel.

The two-day workshop, which is intended to provide the participants with an in-depth working and practical knowledge of food safety management systems, based on the Codex HACCP principles, and ancillary knowledge and skills required by all stakeholders, is meant for seafood producers and processors, as well as food sector workers.

It will also provide them with an up-to-date general knowledge of HACCP, and its relationship with national and international standards, as well as trade and legislative requirements, particularly for exporters of fish and seafood products to the United States.

This training session covers topics, such as sanitation, quality standards, food preparation, proper food handling, good hygiene, legal applications of HACCP, and proper guidance on its implementation.

HACCP is a process that has been established for juice, meat, poultry and seafood processing in order to prevent food borne illness. It is a systematic preventive approach to food and pharmaceutical safety that focuses on the physical, chemical and biological hazards, as a means of prevention, rather than a finished product inspection.

Ambassador Wells, in his speech, noted that the US is aware of the difficulties The Gambia's fisheries sector faces in terms of capacity and the rising energy costs.

He added that they believe the fisheries sector is one with great potential for growth in terms of economic development and international trade.

The Ambassador further reiterated that the US will continue to push for more trade ties between the two countries, noting that the US has launched a series of training programmes to that effect.

According to the US diplomat, in 2009, USAID awarded a grant to WWF in the amount of US$2.3 million, to help improve the capacity and sustainability of the fishing sector. That project, he added, is meant to directly affect the capacity of over thousands of fishermen.

He pointed out that HACCP is used in the food industry to identify potential food safety hazards, so that actions, known as Critical Control Points (CCPs) can be taken to reduce or eliminate the risk of the hazards being realised.

"There is great potential market for fish in the US, and we certainly hope that more Gambian fishermen will take advantage of the opportunities to showcase their products. Among the markets is the Boston Seafood Show, one of the largest fish processing exhibitions in the world, that is held every year in March," he announced.

He further revealed that fish is among the 6,400 products that are approved as tariff free products under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act.

Speaking earlier, the Director of Fisheries, Famara Dampha, hailed the US Embassy's efforts to improve trade links between The Gambia and the United States of America.

The training workshop on HACCP is very important to the country, Mr. Dampha said, noting that it will mark an important and necessary step towards improved trade relations between the two countries.

Other speakers were Ousman Drammeh, the Project Manager of WWF (Banafa) and Modou Njie, the Principal Fisheries Officer at the Department of Fisheries in Banjul.