The session was headed by a team cooperation between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) and the Amman Chamber of Commerce in late September.
The workshop was held at the chamber’s headquarters counted with the participation of representatives from Jordan’s Ministries of Agriculture and Industry, Trade, and Supply, as well as the Jordanian Food and Drug Administration and key importers.
The underlying concern throughout the workshop has been to improve mechanisms for trade facilitation.
According to a U.S. Central Intelligence Agency July 2017 estimate, Jordan has a population of 10,248,069. Since the onset of the civil war in Syria and resulting refugee crisis, one of Jordan’s most pressing socioeconomic challenges has been managing the influx of 650,000 UN-registered refugees, more than 80% of whom live in Jordan’s urban areas. Jordan’s own official census estimated the refugee number at 1.3 million as of early 2016. Jordan is not a significant producer of wheat or grains.
One of the key recommendations from the workshop’s discussion has been the call for the adoption of modern, standardized procedures for sampling grain imports. Samples need to be drawn in conformity with international practices and in adherence to technical norms. There is a need to standardize inspection procedures in order to obtain more uniform results.
“The workshop’s participants remain concerned that samples drawn are not necessarily reaching testing labs securely in a timely manner,” the USDA said in an Oct. 5 report. “The quality of samples is often degraded while in route to testing facilities due to mishandling; resulting in increased kernel breakage that skews findings. To help mitigate this concern, attendees stressed the need for developing an integrated feed and grain testing laboratory in the Aqaba area staffed by qualified and experienced technicians; grain shipment vessels are discharge at the Port of Aqaba, approximately 336 kilometers by road from Amman and the nearest testing facilities.”
Workshop participants called for the establishment of a committee of qualified experts to collect samples, as well as for retesting in those cases when initial test results fail to meet Jordanian specifications. The attendees also requested a review of the country’s technical grain standards and clarification of import standards, as well as that vessels be permitted to discharge prior to receiving lab test results (as a means of cutting back on or even avoiding demurrage charges). Importers raised as well concerns about inadequate infrastructure in free zones necessary for the discharge and proper storage of grains.
Some of the attendants suggested that international pre-shipment inspection companies be assigned to monitor the handling and loading operations of grain shipments in the country-of-origin, as well as be present during the discharge in Jordan. Traders and their representatives are also requesting that they be permitted to attend inspection and testing operations.
The workshop brought to light the need for greater transparency, to include better access to information on grains, inspections, and inventory stock levels. The formation of an appeals committee to deal with challenges to sample testing results was similarly raised. Participants strongly advocated also for the implementation of a memorandum-of-understanding between the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Supply and the Jordanian Food and Drug Administration on better inspecting and testing procedures and standards.