There seems to be growing concern that the ambitious regional food security plan will not find favour among some importers and distributors in the region but Trinidadian Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley says Caribbean people will be badly affected if this plan is not supported.
Dr. Rowley, like Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali, alluded to concerns that regional importers and distributors of food may oppose efforts to grow and trade more food within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
In fact, the Trinidadian Prime Minister said that there are large companies in the region that “make good money” being the “commissioned agents” for food grown abroad.
“Do not be surprised if there would be, among our populations, objections to local supply replacing imported supply,” the Prime Minister said at the opening ceremony of the region’s second agri-investment forum.
Though he said that is not profit-making Dr. Rowley reasoned that the regional plan to expand food production and trade, while slashing costly imports, will be more beneficial to the region and its people.
If this plan is not supported, however, the Trinidadian leader warned of grave consequences.
“If we do not replace imports with local produce, then we are condemning ourselves to the vagaries of the international market and we will not be able to support ourselves,” the Prime Minister emphasised.
This agri-investment forum is being hosted in Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) and forms part of the Guyana-led efforts at bolstering food security within CARICOM.
These Guyana-led efforts are widely supported because CARICOM leaders hope to counter rising food prices and food shortages. These challenges have been more pronounced over the past two years, exposing the vulnerability of the import-dependant Caribbean on foreign markets.
While regional leaders believe that the political will exists to remove the longstanding barriers to intra-regional trade and advance production, some have lamented that there is not enough private sector buy-in as yet.
President Ali is among those who believes that the private sector should be doing more.
He explained that producing more food within the region will integrate the distributors and importers in the food production value chain.
“This is not displacing the distributor, this is adding an additional layer of business opportunity for distributors in the region,” Dr. Ali said while addressing the investment forum’s opening ceremony in Trinidad.
Just a day before, he hinted that some Caribbean importers and distributors are threatened by the food plan. But he underscored that there should be no ‘hard feelings’ since the opportunity exists for them to earn even more.