The three-day Agri Investment Forum and Expo wrapped up in Georgetown on Saturday but Regional Heads of Government from across the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have already agreed to sign onto an implementation schedule to be decided on shortly by a task force to be led by President Dr. Irfaan Ali.
According to a joint outcome statement, the Group has recommended that a Special Committee immediately prepare proposals, with time-bound deadlines, for eliminating existing trade barriers which stand to setback efforts towards achieving food security and reducing the region’s food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
See full statement below:
A representative group of CARICOM Heads of Government from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Montserrat and Trinidad and Tobago and other high-level representatives from The Bahamas, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and regional and international institutions met in Georgetown, Guyana at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on May 19 and 20, 2022 as participants in the “Agri-Investment Forum and Expo: Investing in Vision 25 by 2025”, organised by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat.
The Group took the opportunity of the important and timely Forum to discuss the current grave global situation of the shortages and high prices of imported food; the shortage and increased prices of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs; and the severe problems affecting transportation and supply.
They noted with great concern that the member states of CARICOM have been deeply impacted by these developments which have resulted in a dramatic increase in the cost of food, exposing still further the region’s food insecurity due to its vulnerability to external influences. The Group recognized that, within CARICOM, member states have the capacity to attain a high level of food security for the Community as a whole, provided that urgent action is taken to establish sustainable machinery, and to adhere to the terms of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The Group agreed that lack of action to implement the 2005 “Framework for the repositioning of Caribbean agriculture” (the Jagdeo initiative) which was agreed by CARICOM Governments, constrained the Community’s capacity to safeguard against the impact of the present crisis. In this connection, they welcomed the timely and important vision of the agricultural development plan – [aligned with Advancing the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda: Prioritising Food and Nutrition Security and the 25 by 2025 Plan] –, presented by President Irfaan Ali of Guyana, at the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in March 2022.
They resolved to recommend, for the adoption by all CARICOM Heads of Government, the following four priority areas to address food security urgently and sustainably, including through the speedy implementation of decisions:
The agricultural plan, proposed by Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali to the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in March 2022, should be fully implemented as swiftly as possible, with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders. In this regard, President Ali was requested to mandate the Ministerial Task Force on Food Security to propose an implementation schedule for urgent consideration by Heads of Government.
Recognizing that the lack of adequate regional transportation by sea and air is an obstacle to the transportation of food within the region, and determined that it should be overcome within the shortest possible time frame, Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados, together with the Heads of Government in the quasi-Cabinet responsible for Transport (Marítime and Aviation) and Agriculture, have been requested to complete a proposal for establishing adequate and sustainable regional transportation, after consultation with the Caribbean private sector, the international donor community and multilateral development agencies, for consideration by Heads of Government in July 2022. In making this recommendation, the Group was heartened by the advice of the Caribbean Development Bank that it is willing to use its best efforts to mobilise resources in this effort.
In considering that the biggest inhibitors to the development of agri-food systems within the region are trade barriers, particularly non-tariff barriers, and that this issue requires political consensus and determination to prevent it, the Group recommends that a Special Committee immediately prepare proposals, with time-bound deadlines, for eliminating such trade barriers. The Special Committee should be convened by the Minister in the quasi-Cabinet responsible for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and its proposals for implementation should be presented at a Special Meeting of Heads of Government in the third quarter of 2022.
Women and Youth
Recognising and affirming the importance of the participation of women and youth in agriculture – both to enlarge the sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of national economies and to empower the two groups to share in the earnings that can be generated by a vibrant agricultural sector – the CARICOM Secretariat should be authorised to commission an urgent study, for consideration by the Special Meeting of Heads of Government proposed for the third quarter of this year, on ways to attract and expand the participation of youth and women by at least 20% by 2025. The terms of reference of the study should include machinery for providing credit; crop insurance; contract purchasing of produce; and training including in the use of modern technology.
The representative Group of Heads of Governments and other high-level representatives emphasized the urgency in implementing the four priority issues which they have identified as imperative, not only to surmount the current grave challenges of food shortages and high food prices that the region faces, but to overcome them in a sustainable and lasting manner.
The Group noted the work of the Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security chaired by Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, in advising on the development of a CARICOM food system. They welcomed with great appreciation the important and timely initiative by Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali of organising the “Agri-Investment Forum and Expo” from which these deliberations and recommendations have been made. They looked forward enthusiastically to maintaining the momentum, generated by this meeting, at a follow-up “Agriculture and Food Security Forum” in Trinidad and Tobago in August 2022.