President calls on SICA to support CARICOM’s food security agenda
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President, Dr Irfaan Ali
President, Dr Irfaan Ali

PRESIDENT Dr Irfaan Ali on has called for collaboration between CARICOM and the Central American Integration System (SICA) to strengthen and enhance food security in the region.

The President made these remarks during an address on Thursday at the fourth CARICOM-SICA Summit in Belize where he stated that the Caribbean Community has embarked on a plan to transform the region’s agriculture sector to meet its food and nutrition needs.

As the leader responsible for Agriculture and Food Security for CARICOM, Dr Ali stated his team is prepared to engage and collaborate with countries within the region to achieve the ambitious agenda.

“I wish to use this opportunity to focus on one specific area and as the country with responsibility within CARICOM for agriculture and food security, I offer a readiness to collaborate with countries of the hemisphere to strengthen agri food systems and enhance food security.”

To this end, he highlighted that at the meeting, there is great potential as he noted that countries like Guatemala has 25 per cent of its GDP coming from agriculture with some 50 per cent of its labour force within the sector. Honduras, he noted employs some 39 per cent of its people in the sector.

A number of countries within Central America are global players in the areas of sugar, coffee, banana and cotton just to name a few.

“This tells us that the solution to food security and sustainability lies right in this room, what we require is the commitment and joint approach in addressing food security in the region,” he said. As such, he proposed steps that can be taken as part of the reset agenda.

Prior to the meeting, Dr Ali indicated that discussions have begun with Belize, Costa Rica and Guatemala; these nations have expressed an interest and commitment in supporting CARICOM’s 25 by 2025 plan. This plan seeks to get the region to cut its food imports by 25 per cent by 2025.

The President proposed a joint meeting between the Central American Agricultural Council and the Ministerial Task Force established by CARICOM so that the priorities can be married and a time-bound framework established in keeping with CARICOM’s mandate on food security.

“We are extending and reaching to our friends in this room to support this agenda and support us; you are our first call,” Dr. Ali said.

He went on to say that in furthering the agenda, an investment forum has been set for May 19 to 21 to deal specifically with agriculture and food security. He added that the areas that SICA has competitive advantages are almost identical to the areas that CARICOM has identified to boost production and improve competitiveness.

“So this is low hanging fruit, very, very low hanging fruit in which we can bring real benefit, real results and show the population of a region that we are not only on prolonged dialogue but here is it that as a joint region we are prepared to put up an actionable timetable that we are going to open ourselves to accountability to the people in achieving the integration that food security and agriculture can bring for us,” President Ali said.

With that he extended an invitation to representatives of SICA to attend the agriculture investment forum to be held in May in Guyana.

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