Action plan to be crafted for agriculture
— to create easier environment, involve young people, and increase access to capital, says President Ali
CAPITALISING on the potential of agriculture in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been a target for years, and while there have been many reports which have outlined the path to progression in this area, the community has taken a firm decision to establish an action plan which will outline vividly the bloc’s strategic approach. The community has decided that the plan, moving forward, entails working through a ministerial taskforce, the private sector and the sub-committee on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), to establish an action plan to remove barriers affecting intra-regional trade and also identify specific areas where a strategic approach could be developed.
“There were extensive discussions and decisions which were aimed at looking at the entire value chain in terms of creating wealth and business opportunities, while improving capacity and output, and making them sustainable to move towards greater food security,” CARICOM’s spokesperson on agriculture, President of Guyana, Dr. Irfaan Ali, said during a virtual press briefing following the conclusion of the 32nd inter-sessional meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government, on Thursday.
Agriculture, President Ali said, was discussed in the context of food security, commercialisation, and mainstreaming output into national policy formulation.
To this end, Heads of Government discussed the responsibilities of individual member states within the region and the region itself, in terms of achieving the strategic targets.
“We discussed responsibilities of governments within the region and the region itself in terms of the way we craft our national budgets, ensuring that we outline strategic targets in our national budgets to support agricultural development, to support increase in yield, to support agri-business and agro-processing,” President Ali said. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, in its report on the current status of the Caribbean and implications for agriculture policy and strategy, had said that growth in agricultural productivity has been slow and the sector suffers from high trade costs and a low capacity to comply with modern food safety and quality standards. As a consequence, it has been unable to adequately respond to rapidly growing demand for high-standard agri-food products from the tourism, processing, and retailing sectors – in- and outside the region.
Instead, the growing demand by these sectors in the region is mainly fulfilled by imports. The region’s agricultural sector is also constrained by large and increasing pressures on natural resources and a high vulnerability to climate change.
The FAO said, however, that there is a significant potential for strengthening market linkages and much scope for farmers, fishers, and agri-food businesses to catch up with current best practices and technologies.
While not identifying the specific barriers to development, President Ali affirmed that CARICOM has recognised the barriers affecting intra-regional trade, and has decided to work towards addressing them through the potential action plan.
Ahead of the creation of an action plan, the community also examined areas where member states have competitive advantages and how they could build a model to mitigate differentials in instances where there is competition.
When done, the community will be looking to create an environment which is easier for agro-business, one which promotes the involvement of young people and improves access to capital.
Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley, said the private sector is confident that it could garner funds to facilitate the movement from report to “hands in the soil,” and increase competitiveness.