By Kurt Campbell
While achievable, President Dr Irfaan Ali believes that addressing the issue of regional food security and reducing the bloc’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 is a very complex and multi-faceted task.
Important among the elements needed is financing, Dr. Ali emphasised as he welcomed Republic Bank’s support for the strategy he has proposed to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government.
Already, the bank has set aside an allocation of financial resources to support the vision ‘25 by 2025’, but Dr. Ali said more is needed as he offered a public invitation to all other financial institutions in the region and further afield.
Dr. Ali believes that the overwhelming interest of persons and institutions to support the vision would also translate to financial support.
“I am not worried anymore about financing. I have heard enough; I have seen enough and I have listened enough to know that we can attract the financing to support the vision. So, this is an ease for the leadership in the region,” the Guyanese Head of State said.
Delivering the feature address on Friday at the launch of the highly anticipated Agriculture Investment Forum and Expo set for May 2022 at the Arthur Chung Conference Center (ACCC), Dr. Ali said food security was not just about producing the food in the region but also about financing and many other factors including technology, partnerships, job creation and shared responsibility among others.
He said the Guyana Government has not only offered its commitment to the strategy but being Guyana-led, Dr. Ali said as far as the country’s resources will allow, the government will provide the financing required to help support implementation.
Dr. Ali posited that CARICOM’s vision to ensure food security has not gone unnoticed but is already touching different corners of the globe. That is evident in the recent commitment by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Invest to be part of the vision.
“Not only will they be part of the vision but they will be part of the expo on May 19 – 21,” Dr. Ali announced.
He said Guyana also has the commitment of the diplomatic community here as he singled out the Canadian High Commission and the European Union in offering technical support.
“They are all committed to this task.”
Moreover, Dr. Ali said Guyana has been able to secure the attendance of four of the largest buyers and distributors of food and agriculture products from the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“More than buying and distribution, they invest in the agriculture potential of countries. They put the capital in and derive the product as an output.”
Already, Dr. Ali said 20 international companies, 33 regional companies, 53 local companies, and at least four global institutions have confirmed their attendance at the expo.
“The appetite is there; the time is right. We must now embrace it,” Dr. Ali urged. He said the CARICOM Secretariat will have to work with every individual member state to package the region’s needs in a way that is attractive.
“It must be attractive in a real way, not a selling way. We can’t package something and when the investor comes, they take 10 months to get off the ground. That is not what we want to achieve,” he added.
Meanwhile, also delivering remarks at the launch on Friday was Republic Bank Guyana Manager of Marketing and Communications Michelle Johnson, who said the bank was proud that Guyana has positioned itself to play a leading role in delivering the strategy.
“This vision is well aligned with our commitment to working responsibly with our stakeholders to encourage sustainable practices and enable economic activities that create shared prosperity.”
Johnson said the bank recognises the challenges facing the region and the critical need for financing in the agriculture sector and likewise the urgency of required action.
“If we are to accomplish the modest target, we have to get started immediately,” she admonished.
Four CARICOM Heads addressed the launch and pointed to the vital role the regional private sector bodies will play in the strategy and realising the vision, 25 by 2025.