By Vahnu ManikchandConstruction of a modern, multi-million-dollar complex to house the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD) is set to commence in the near future. Officials on Monday conducted the ceremonial sod-turning exercise at the site earmarked for the building — within the compound of the University of Guyana (UG) Turkeyen Campus. The completed project is expected to cost $130.7 million.Public Health Minister Volda Lawrence and UG Vice Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, turning the sod ahead of construction of the new GA-FDD complexThe project entails construction of a laboratory and administrative building to the tune of $110 million, and procurement of laboratory supplies, quality control aids and proficiency testing materials to the tune of a further $20.7 million. These include fume hoods and a steam digester — both for the Excise laboratory – to be procured at a cost of $11.2 million; two incubators and a hot-air oven for the Microbiology laboratory, to be procured at a cost of $2 million; and five analytical balances for all the laboratories, to be procured at a cost of $7.5 million.The initiative, a collaborative effort between the University’s Faculties of Natural Sciences and Health Sciences and the Ministry of Public Health, aims at facilitating the GA-FDD to be better positioned to fulfill its mandate through accreditation of inspection, analysis and testing.Officials of the Public Health Ministry, UG and the Food and Drug Department at the site where the new complex will be constructedPublic Health Minister Volda Lawrence emphasized the importance of the new complex, noting that it would greatly enhance and expand the services that the FA-FDD presently offers. She noted that its present facility falls short of international standards, being housed in the IAST building. The space, she added, is grossly inadequate and disjointed, presenting hazardous conditions of work; compromising the quality of service; and limiting the capabilities of the GA-FDD.“The GA-FDD, along with (the Faculties) of Natural Sciences and Health Sciences, is keen to have this new Laboratory Complex operational as soon as possible, so that the various aspects of (its) work can be efficiently and effectively managed… It is imperative that our international trade is not jeopardised. Further, we recognise that with this new complex, our dependence on external laboratories to conduct analysis on Guyana’s behalf, which have restricted our access to some international markets, (would be lessened) and we (would) be in a better position to monitor, regulate and meet the international standards required to penetrate these markets,” she stated.Minister Lawrence also said that the Public Health Ministry’s mandate is to ensure the health and well-being of citizens as consumers, and this is being carried out through the GA-FDD. As such, she said, GA-FDD personnel must be provided with the requisite tools and facilities to establish the safety and quality of their service.On this note, she added that the international arena is rapidly changing, and Guyana does not want to remain obsolete. In fact, she noted that the country cannot afford to lag behind.“We must be competitive, we must be robust and be able to respond to challenges such as those soon to be presented because of the US Food Safety Modernization Act and new export requirements to European markets, particularly for seafood products.“The overarching principles that emerge are that we must have an efficient and effective laboratory that provides service of the highest quality to all clients, and precise and accurate analytical results that (would) withstand international scrutiny, cement our credibility, and engender customer satisfaction,” she asserted.Vice Chancellor of UG, Professor Ivelaw Griffith, noted that the functions of the UG Natural Sciences Faculty would be significantly improved with the construction of this new complex.The Government Analyst Food and Drug Department is currently housed at the Institute of Applied Science and Technology at the Turkeyen Campus. As part of its mandate, the GA-FDD facilitates analysis, licensing, and certification of locally produced export commodities such as rice, sugar, rum, seafood, processed foods and pharmaceuticals.The GA-FDD is also responsible for ensuring that the distribution, marketing and production of commodities (local and imported) meet the highest standard of quality and safety.Announcement of the new complex was made by Minister Dr. George Norton during the 2017 budget debates.