Trade barriers no longer serve Caribbean countries & hinder food security – says Regional Academic
Caribbean countries hope to slash the US$6 billion annual food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 but these efforts are being hindered by longstanding trade barriers that do not serve Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries well.
This is according to Dr Kai-Ann Skeete, a Trade Research Fellow at the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services based at the UWI Cave Hill campus in Barbados.
Dr Skeete spoke at an event in Guyana last week, explaining that trade barriers implemented by individual countries may have previously proven beneficial.
Now, however, it does not appear as though these barriers serve the interests of Caribbean countries or the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as a whole.
“We have these barriers in place as a means of protecting local employment but a lot of these barriers are from 1960’s and 1970’s (and) this should not exist now in 2023.
“It requires that our politicians go back to the drawing boards, go back to Parliament and amend legislations because we cannot have regional substitution of goods unless we remove those barriers,” Dr Skeete said.
What CARICOM is hoping to do is cut its expensive food import bill by producing more food regionally. With more food produced, countries hope to intensify trade among each other.
This plan, that is led by Guyana, would see fewer food imports from traditional places of import like the United States of America (USA) and Europe.
Currently, however, certain trade restrictions impact this plan.
“A clear example [is] my own country of Barbados does not allow in sweet potatoes from Grenada; Trinidad and Tobago will not let in any CARICOM honey producing products; Grenada’s restriction as it relates to flour, rice and its quantity restriction for a 12 month period restriction for packages over 10 kilogrammes,” she said.
There has been some revitalised interest in removing these barriers, with Guyana’s leadership on agriculture and nutrition in CARICOM’s quasi-cabinet.
Dr. Skeete believes that these efforts will prove beneficial for the region.
This week Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali said the countries have to invest at US $7.5 billion to achieve the 25 by 2025 goal.