Mottley: Quick transportation, removing trade barriers part of ‘practical focus’ of agriculture


By Vishani Ragobeer

Regional leaders have been locked in discussions on what is needed to satisfy the food demand in the Caribbean and Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley says that leaders have agreed that speedy transportation of produce is a key part of satisfying that demand.

“We need an efficient supply chain that is safe and secure, and not necessarily one that is driven by imports,” the Prime Minister emphasised at a press briefing held during the Agri-Investment forum and expo at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre in Georgetown.

She later added, “With all that you are producing, if we can’t get it to the island chain in a manner that is quick and affordable then it is of no use.”

As such, she reasoned that the forthcoming Guyana/ Barbados food terminal is a critical mechanism that will enable the swifter transportation of food produced in the region.

This food terminal, she explained, is part of the “concrete plans” that have emerged from the ongoing agri-forum.

She also alluded to future opportunities for air transport, noting that the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) is expected to zero in on the elusive improvement of transport arrangements.

Guyana is leading the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) charge of cutting the massive annual US $5 billion food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025. The main thrust underpinning this charge is an expansion of regional food production.

But these efforts have long been constrained by challenges and barriers across the region. One long-standing challenge has been the existence of intra-regional trade barriers despite the general commitment of CARICOM countries to free trade.

Prime Minister Mottley said that at the next meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government, slated for July, there should be a reinvigorated focus on dismantling some of those barriers.

“We, therefore, hope that at the next Heads of Government meeting, which is in about two months’ time, and immediately after, possibly in Dominica, that we can go and sit down without all of the fanfare and all of the frills and just attack the top barriers,” Prime Minister Mottley said pointedly.

Local businesses, for example, lament the trade challenges that exist when they attempt to export goods to some states like Trinidad and Tobago. These include non-tariff barriers such as quotas, embargoes, sanctions and levies and affect some exports to CARICOM markets.

These challenges have constrained the realisation of CARICOM’s free trade agreement- the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Prime Minister Mottley, just as many of her colleagues did a day before, said that there is a dire need for the removal of these barriers.

“There are too many stories of containers of produce being left at ports to spoil and it has happened in too many countries or restrictions because of failure to comply with sanitary and phytosanitary conditions.

“We need to be very practical now, we can’t move produce from country to country if people are going to lose their investment,” Prime Minister Mottley lamented.

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