Strengthening linkages between agri-food, tourism and health sectors vital
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Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha

–to reposition Caribbean agriculture, says Minister Mustapha
–underscores financing for mitigation and adaptation to climate change is critical

AGRICULTURE Minister Zulfikar Mustapha said that for agriculture to be effectively repositioned in the Caribbean, a number of actions must be taken.

The minister was at the time addressing the Conference of Ministers of Agriculture of the Americas 2021, which was hosted by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

The two-day conference saw Ministers of Agriculture from across the region meeting to discuss matters relating to improving agriculture relations across the Caribbean.
While presenting on behalf of the Caribbean region, Minister Mustapha said that several actions must be taken to reposition agriculture in the Americas.

“Actions to reposition Caribbean agriculture must include strengthening linkages between the agri-food, tourism and health sectors, establishing public-private partnerships in local food production, and processing, implementing climate-smart technologies, and transitioning towards digital agriculture. Therefore, financing for mitigation and adaptation to climate change is more critical today than ever before, and is necessary to protect and transform Caribbean food systems,” Minister Mustapha said.

Minister Mustapha also said that support from international institutions such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP), IICA, international financial institutions, and bilateral partners will be critical to ensuring a more resilient agricultural sector, and that an immediate priority for the Caribbean is the creation of a vulnerability fund.

So far, member states have identified poultry, niche vegetables, corn, soya bean, rice, coconut, and meat from cows, sheep, and goats as priority commodities for the advancement of the agri-food systems.

Minister Mustapha told the participating officials that, so far, IICA has been providing support for the biofortified rice project, which is on the cusp of releasing a new variety. This, he noted, will be the first such initiative for the region.

Guyana is now playing the lead role in agriculture in the CARICOM. His Excellency, President Irfaan Ali earlier this year presented a strategy to the CARICOM Heads of Government, outlining ways to advance the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda in order to transform the agriculture sector in CARICOM. Since then, Minister Mustapha, who serves as chairman of the Ministerial Taskforce set up to advance the agenda, has been meeting with other serving Ministers of Agriculture in the region to discuss the necessary steps to advance the agri-food system.

The subject minister also told the conference that the inputs and contribution of CARICOM Member States to the global voice for sustainable and resilient food systems are important.

“Given the prominence of these integrated food system challenges for the region, and the longstanding commitment to the transformation of its food systems, it is important for the voices of CARICOM Member States to be added to the global position for sustainable and resilient food systems. As is well known, the Caribbean region is amongst the most vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change impacts, and has been identified as the second most hazard-prone region in the world. Just recently, economies and food systems were impacted by the eruption of volcanoes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, affecting Barbados and other neighbouring Islands; Hurricane Elsa left wind and flood damages in Barbados and other islands in the eastern Caribbean; Haiti, with the recent earthquake, and Guyana and Suriname experienced unprecedented flooding that resulted in tremendous loss of crops and livestock. Additionally, with the confirmation of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in the Americas, we will work with IICA to intensify protective measures against livestock production,” Minister Mustapha said.

Manuel Otero was also re-elected to serve as the Director-General for IICA for the 2022-2026 period.

Other participating nations included Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Paraguay, Mexico, the United States of America, and Ecuador.

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