Canada to help region accelerate agri-value added programmes – Pres Ali

…says food insecurity in region rising since 2022

Declaring that the region’s newest objective is to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030, Caribbean Community (Caricom) Chairman and President Dr. Irfaan Ali has revealed that Canada will be helping the region to accelerate programmes centered on value added agriculture.

(L-R) Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the closing briefing of the inaugural Canada-Caricom Summit last year

During the opening of the 46th Regular Meeting of the Conference of the Caricom Heads of Government, President Ali revealed that Canada will be playing a key role in food security. To this end, the President noted that discussions have already been held with Canada’s Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen.
“Within this cycle, we’ll be working with the Canadians and this is the first partner I’m going to be putting on notice. We’re going to work with the Canadians to accelerate and implement projects from their agri-value added programme,” President Ali said.
“We held discussions already with Minister Hussein, who is here, and he has responsibility for the investment in agri-value added programmes and projects. For this region, this is important. Because we have to build our food system for resilience and sustainability against many different shocks, compared to the rest of the world.”
“25 by 2025” initiative
Meanwhile, President Ali also laid out the region’s newest food security objective. While he emphasized that the ‘25 by 2025’ initiative remains a priority, the Caricom Chairman also noted that the region will seek to end hunger and malnutrition by 2030. President Ali also presented statistics on the troubling rise of food insecurity in the region, brought on by external factors.
“The 25 by 2025 remains a top priority. However, we’re of the view that we must now focus on ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030. We’re proposing to bring together the human assets that this region nurtured, into international fame. To bring their goodwill together, as ambassadors to mobilize international financing and support. So that we can end hunger and malnutrition in this region by 2030.”
“Around 57 per cent of the population in this region, were affected by food insecurity, indicating a significant rise of 1.3 million compared to February 2022. This is an alarming number. And of course, we need not go into the reasons for this. The imported inflation. The increased cost of fertilizer. Forget about the increased cost. The availability of fertilizer. The availability of agro-chemicals. All of this, hinders our development,” the President said.

Food ambassadors
Noting the various cultural and sporting icons the region is blessed with, President Ali made a call for the region to allow these persons to be ambassadors to further this food security agenda to global funding sources.
“We have the capability. We have the Usain Bolt, the Chris Gayle. We have all the Clive Lloyds and the big names. The big leaders. We have to use these assets to mobilize resources and create an ambassadorial mission so that we can raise resources, revenue to address the issue of hunger and malnutrition,” the Caricom Chairman said.
Only a few days ago, Canada also signed a CA$120 million (more than G$18.5 billion) loan with the Guyana Government to empower vulnerable groups here. The 10-year agreement for this Sovereign Loan Programme (SLP) was signed on Sunday by Finance Minister, Dr Ashni Singh and Canada’s Minister Hussen.
Under the SLP, loans on concessional terms are provided to eligible countries, tailored to their respective needs and priorities as they relate to poverty reduction and peace and security.
Guyana is the first country to benefit from the SLP in the Western Hemisphere, and the third, globally.
The loan will be utilised to improve social protection under the Human Services and Social Security Ministry in the areas of digital transformation, old age pension, gender-based violence, persons living with disabilities and trafficking in persons.
In October of last year, during the inaugural Canada-Caricom Summit, President Ali had held bilateral discussions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa, on the sidelines of the summit. During the discussions, agriculture had been high on the agenda.
Following President Ali’s engagement with the Canadian Prime Minister, it had been announced that “Discussions focused on Canada’s support for the development of Guyana’s oil and gas sector, the two countries shared values and approaches to climate resilience, food security, investments, and agriculture.”
During the inaugural summit, a Canada-Caricom Strategic Partnership Agreement was also launched to further embed the close collaboration and cooperation between the two sides on mutually agreed sectors. The Canadian Prime Minister had also pledged almost $90 million in foreign aid for the region.
Vision 25 by 2025, which was first conceptualized by President Ali, aims for the Caribbean region to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in the Region’s food import bill by the year 2025. Owing to the Region’s dependency on imported foods, it faces hardships when disruptions occur. And in light of this, the intention was to formulate a sense of food stability and security.(G3)