Boosting agriculture production; the need for financial injection in the sector; the removal of trade barriers; and the necessity for reliable, intra-regional transportation came into sharp focus as the CARICOM Agri Investment Forum and Exposition got underway Thursday.
Those matters were the common thread of the remarks of the nine featured speakers at the opening ceremony held at the National Cultural Centre.
The event under the theme ‘Investing in Vision 25 by 2025’ aims to galvanise investment in regional agriculture to reduce the increasing food import bill which currently is estimated at US$6B; boost food systems; and ensure food security. Over the three days, discussions were scheduled with farmers, agro-processors, agri-preneurs, youth, policymakers, investors, international development partners and other stakeholders on how to increase the momentum towards achieving the vision of reducing the Region’s US$6B food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
Here are some of the key takeaways from the opening:
Region must reboot agriculture sector
CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett, referenced the high cost of food and called on the Region to seize the opportunity to increase its own agricultural production for trade within the regional markets and for export further afield.
“We have come together today to make another important step on our journey towards reducing the regional food import bill by 25 percent by 2025. This clear objective set by CARICOM Heads of Government requires rebooting of our agriculture sector to improve production and productivity, and intra-regional trade. That is what ‘Investing in Vision 25 by 2025’ is all about,” she said.
She argued that the path to transforming the region’s food systems was in “our hands” and that the task was being undertaken at a time of great global uncertainty. She singled out among the challenges COVID-19, increases in the prices of food, fuel and other basic commodities as a result of the war in Ukraine, and supply chain disruptions.
Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of Dominica agreed that actions and decisions to transform agriculture were “within our hands”, and that there was need to itemise the actions that had to be taken and “take them.”
President of Guyana, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, who holds responsibility for agriculture in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, provided a range of statistics. They painted a vivid picture of the state of regional and local agriculture, the upheavals in global trade and the increasing cost of goods; and the opportunities that existed for the Region to move forward in agriculture.
Guyana’s food import bill stands at US$30M, the President said. To reduce that figure, the country is exploring a series of options including injecting money to grow high value crops, corn and soya; investing in shrimp production; …….