Caribbean countries hope to slash a US$6 billion annual food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 and Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali says public and private investments amounting to at least US$7.5 billion are needed to help the region achieve that goal.
And even if the much-needed investments are secured, President Ali added that there are several other factors inhibiting regional production and trade that must be addressed.
Though the reality seems daunting, Dr. Ali assured those gathered for a Caribbean Leaders’ Open Dialogue on Tuesday that there is collective support for the region’s ambitious food security agenda and that much-needed plans are unfolding.
One of those plans, he said, is the establishment of the Caribbean’s first regional food hub that will link Guyana, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago.
Once that facility is up and running, it will boast all international certifications and standards needed to surmount any regional trade challenges. As such, Dr. Ali believes it will boost regional food production and trade in a big way.
Outside of that food hub, he said Guyana and other countries are increasing the production of costly and/or high-value food be it corn and soya for fertilisers or vegetables that are otherwise imported.
And Dr. Ali credited regional governments and regional private sector players for being aligned on this food security agenda.
Still, he highlighted that there are several challenges to be surmounted.
According to him, many more investments are needed to allow countries to leverage more climate-resilient agriculture and much attention needs to be directed towards developing the intra-regional transport system.
“… In all of this, we have to find financing for infrastructure… in an environment in which we are already saddled with the heavy debt burden, the cost of climate adaptation and the high cost of financing globally
“If we are to achieve the 25 by 2025 target in a very conservative way, the investment from the public and private sector needed will be about US$7.5 billion,” Dr. Ali lamented.
While Caribbean countries try to hammer out the issues before them, Dr. Ali called on partners like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bolster their support for the region.
But that support, he said, should not be confined to conducting studies or producing reports. Instead, he called on those International Financial Institutions to help countries strengthen their institutions and pursue solutions crafted
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is pursuing revitalised efforts to cut 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.