Unless old habits change, ‘food catastrophe’ will hit Caribbean – Pres. Ali

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By Vishani Ragobeer

Vishani@newsroom.gy

Global events are likely to contribute to a shortage of food and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has lamented that unless old habits change, the Caribbean will be hard hit by the looming catastrophe.

“We have to look at markets that can sustain our supply in the immediate future because there is a major food catastrophe coming,” the Guyanese Head of State stressed as he delivered the feature address at the opening of Barbados’ Agro-Fest on Friday.

Already, global supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, further exacerbated by the Ukraine/ Russia crisis, caused the price of goods, including food, to skyrocket.

And President Ali, almost ominously, warned that future global events may adversely affect countries, particularly those small island developing states in the Caribbean.

“We have to understand that the challenges that will come will impact us the most,” he said pointedly.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali and Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley perusing some of the products on display at the Guyana booth at this year’s Barbados agro-fest (Photo: Office of the President/ May 27, 2022)

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is pursuing revitalised efforts at cutting the region’s multibillion dollar annual food import bill by increasing regional production. These efforts are led by Guyana with President Ali as the Lead Head for agriculture in CARICOM’s quasi-cabinet.

While speaking at Friday’s event, President Ali, however, noted that countries of the region must not only produce more food but they must also remove the “thoughtless impediments” to intra-regional trade.

Trade barriers within CARICOM, though the bloc seeks to promote free trade and a single economic space, have been a bugbear, hampering prior food security and trade efforts.

Now, with the revitalised focus on food production and weaning the region from its dependence on food imports, the removal of trade barriers and easy transportation among member states has become a priority.

Those are still not the only long standing challenges that must be addressed, according to the President.

He called on Caribbean people to consume more of what is produced in the region, discarding their preference for foreign goods. He also noted that distributors and members of the private sector are integral in “breaking the consumption cycle.”

If these habits are changed, President Ali believes that the region will be able to protect it from future adverse events.

He also noted that enhanced collaboration among member states is crucial to the success of the regional food security plan.

Already, Guyana and Barbados are pursuing several mutually beneficial initiatives. Once those initiatives are successful, the Guyanese Head of State believes that the partnership can be a model one that can be emulated across the region.

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