Beyond CARICOM, Guyana registers hemispheric support for threats to food security
Guyana is leading an aggressive food security agenda within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)- a 15-member bloc of Caribbean states, but amid growing concerns of food shortages, the country has backed similar efforts in the wider Americas.
Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture Zulfikar Mustapha, during a recent visit to Costa Rica, signalled Guyana’s support for efforts to protect the people of the Americas from food shortages.
A new continental alliance- a food plan for the Americas- was proposed by Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) at the recently concluded Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California.
And a press release from the Ministry of Agriculture noted that the Guyanese minister underscored the importance of such plans.
“We in Guyana will support the continental alliance and contribute to the Director General’s vision.
“We have to work together to achieve food security,” Mustapha was quoted as saying in a press release.
This medium- and long-term work is based on four strategic aspects: the strengthening and transformation of agri-food systems in the Americas; challenges and opportunities for agri-food trade in the region in the new geopolitical context; the role of science, technology, and innovation; and facilitating economic and social inclusion by reinforcing the cooperative system.
This support comes as Guyana is leading a similar plan in the Caribbean. The region hopes to slash its more than US $5 billion annual food import bill by producing more food within the region, and increasing intra-regional trade.
By 2025, CARICOM hopes that at least 25 per cent of its imports can be substituted with products from the region.
Minister Mustapha, who is also chair of the CARICOM Ministerial Work Group established, spoke about the reality of the agriculture sector in his country, a strategic nation with a great capacity to become the food basket of the region.
“We have the land, the water and the capital, we can produce the corn and soy that we need for the Caribbean and for Guyana itself, which can become the center of food production, reduce its import costs and have a resilient productive sector,” he added.
Like Guyana’s and CARICOM’s plans, Mustapha described the alliance as an “innovative way of uniting the countries and working together to ensure that we address food security.”
Food security, Mustapha reportedly noted, has been aggravated by a current context of overlapping crises: the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ukraine/ Russia crisis and climate change.
“In Guyana, we are grateful that our president Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali is promoting these same ideas in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to ally with countries from all over the world to address the issue,” Minister Mustapha added.
Mustapha made an official visit to IICA headquarters in San José, Costa Rica, where he met IICA Director General Manuel Otero, to discuss the Caribbean nation’s action plans, priorities and agricultural challenges, and to advance the dialogue on the main advances of Guyanese agriculture and new opportunities for technical cooperation.
“(This alliance) also seeks to foster science and technology and increase trade and integration. A new alliance is needed between production and the environment,” Otero was quoted as saying.
He added, “It is necessary to act now to generate an effective coalition to promote food security in our continent, transforming threats into opportunities and generating a set of concrete actions.
“It is time to come together; no country can get through this crisis alone. Food security must be combated with concrete actions in the short and medium-term.”