As CARICOM produces more food, Ali says storage a key concern


By Fareeza Haniff in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Guyana’s President, Dr Irfaan Ali says that countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) need to invest in building more storage capacity as part of efforts to reduce the region’s expensive food import bill.

Dr Ali, who is the lead Head of Government for agriculture in CARICOM, on Tuesday presented a detailed report to Heads of State titled ‘Advancing the CARICOM Agri-Food System Agenda-Prioritizing Regional Food and Nutrition Security.’

And part of his presentation, he highlighted the urgent need for more investments in infrastructure to support food production.

Since assuming his role in CARICOM, Ali has launched an aggressive campaign to reduce the region’s annual US$6 billion food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali made a presentation at the plenary session of the 45th Conference of CARICOM Heads of Government at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Port of Spain (Photo: Office of the President/ Latchman Singh/ July 4, 2023)

And he believes that once CARICOM countries build more storage capacity, countries would not have to deal food losses or the hefty costs of storage.

“We now have to ensure that we invest in the input and that is what Guyana is doing, so by 2027, all the corn, soya and rice between Guyana, Suriname and those who can support the investment from the region, will come from within the region.

“But we have to produce in such a way that when the market has a glut, we need to have the storage capacity so that when there’s a deficit in supply and the price goes up, we have the forward planning of storage capacity,” President Ali told the News Room after making his presentation at the CARICOM plenary session.

President Dr. Irfaan Ali engaging the News Room’s Fareeza Haniff after making his presentation at the CARICOM plenary session (Photo: Office of the President/ Latchman Singh/ July 4, 2023)

He noted that the region can only store 20 per cent of all the grains it needs.
“So, we have to get investments that will allow us to store 100 per cent of the grains that we need.”

The Head of State acknowledged that transportation within the region is another pressing issue affecting food security and he noted that this remains on the agenda to be discussed by CARICOM Heads.

Meanwhile, Ali remains passionate about ending non-tariff barriers that exist within the region.

“We’ve just discussed that we need to work on not measures but we need to work on bringing to an end, the non-tariff barriers that exist within the region, especially the movement of agricultural produce within the region.

The existing trade barriers in some CARICOM countries continue to threaten the bloc’s 25 by 2025 vision.

As it is, Barbados does not allow the import of sweet potatoes from Grenada; Trinidad and Tobago will not let in any CARICOM honey-producing products and Grenada restricts flour and rice for a 12-month period for packages over 10 kilogrammes.

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