The United States (US) government restated its pledge of US$28 million to boost food production in the Caribbean but President Dr. Irfaan Ali has made a pitch for even more financial support, as the US/ Caribbean trade appears poised for increase.
President Ali, who has the lead responsibility for food security in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) quasi-cabinet, was part of a team of five Caribbean leaders who met with US Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday.
That meeting focused on three key areas: energy security, food security and climate change.
And President Ali, in a video statement released after the meeting, assured Guyanese that there has been “tremendous progress” in advancing the region’s food security priorities.
Aside from the US$28 million commitment to boost short-term food production efforts, the Guyanese Head of State highlighted that there was an agreement to remove intra-regional trade barriers, and those that exist with the US.
This focus on making trade easier, he said, could see a common certification programme being developed to standardise the sanitary and phytosanitary requirements in food trade.
There will also be a focus on infusing more research and development in food production efforts, and attracting more US investments in the region.
Beyond the foregoing though, Guyana made a specific pitch for more financial support.
“I put forward a proposal to have a further US$25 million through grants and low cost loans for youth and women and agriculture, especially for projects dealing with sustainability, technology and research like hydroponics.
“These are projects that will ensure resilience in the food production system and encourage young people and women to participate,” President Ali highlighted.
Before her meeting with the Caribbean leaders, Vice President Harris emphasised that food security is essential for both the US and the Caribbean given the food shortages seen globally in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine/ Russia crisis.
As such, she said the US is committed to boosting food production efforts in the Caribbean.
“We will contribute to addressing the logistical barriers to transportation… that is a very important detail when we are talking about combating food insecurity anywhere, and in particular in the Caribbean.
“We will remove non-tariff barriers to facilitate movement of the food in the region,” Vice President Harris told reporters.
There are few other areas that the US intends to provide support on.
CARICOM leaders Keith Rowley, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago; Mia Mottley, the Prime Minister of Barbados and Chandrikapersad Santoki, the President of Suriname and the current CARICOM Chairman joined President Ali at this meeting.
Also present was President of the Dominican Republic Luis Abinader.
Together, the leaders also advanced talks on US/ Caribbean energy security efforts. According to President Ali, a joint approach to energy security was discussed with the Caribbean leaders agreeing that energy development must include a combination of natural gas, fossil fossils and renewable energy.
On climate change, the US Vice President said that the US government intends to accelerate the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis, also known as PACC 2030. Through this, the US committed to identifying new clean energy projects, providing new technical assistance to the Caribbean, bring new investors to the region and improve countries’ access to development financing.