Caribbean must rid itself of dependency on food imports – Caricom SG

…Vision 25 by 2025 is more than a “catchy slogan” – Chairman

Caricom Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett on Thursday called on members to take serious strides to reduce the bloc’s dependency on imported food supplies.
The Caribbean carries a weighty food import bill of US$6 billion per annum. Inflated food costs have triggered this position, as well as created a sense of dependence in the Region .

Caricom Chairman, Belizean Prime Minister John Briceño

During her address at the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo on Thursday, Barnett related, “With food prices now at their highest levels since 2008, we are doing what we must do to seize this challenge as the opportunity to increase our own production for trade within the regional markets and further afield…For the Caribbean Community, investing in Vision 25 by 2025 for greater food and nutrition security is not just a concept, but an urgent necessity.”

Caricom Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett

Vision 25 by 2025, which was conceptualised by Guyana’s President, Dr Irfaan Ali, aims for a 25 per cent reduction in the Region’s food import bill by the year 2025. Barnett indicated that owing to the Region’s dependency on imported foods, it faces hardships when disruptions occur.
“The time for action is now. The path for the transformation of our food systems is in our hands. We undertake this task at a time of great global uncertainty. Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic exacted a significant toll on our economies, but we are now facing increased prices for food, fuel, and other basic goods due to the war in Ukraine and long-lasting supply chain disruptions. This adds on the stresses of vulnerable people in our populations, increases the cost of doing business, and places additional pressures on Government’s budgets,” she noted.
The Caricom SG shared that agriculture posed a high potential to drive the Region’s socio-economic pillar. With food prices now at their highest, she welcomed efforts in seizing the opportunity to produce the Caribbean’s own food.
Caricom Chairman, Belizean Prime Minister John Briceño added that “Vision 25 by 2025” was more than a “catchy slogan” for leaders.
“It is a plan which intends to see our Region reduce its dependency on food imports and products by 25 per cent over the next three and a half years. We will have to work with our agro-producers to foster a targeted investment in agriculture,” the Chairman affirmed.
He added, “We’re convinced that President Ali’s plans for agriculture and development in the Region are realistic, and more so, they are imperative if we are to achieve food security for our Caricom Region.”
The three-day forum and expo, organised at the Arthur Chung Conference Center at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, has more than 250 exhibitors with stakeholders from countries such as Jamaica, the United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana, and Barbados.
Potential investors and donors will discuss emerging opportunities for agriculture in Caricom. A matching of bankable agricultural projects with willing private and public financiers will also advance the food system agenda for the Region.
At the 32nd Inter-Sessional Conference of the Caricom Heads of Government, a special ministerial task force was established and tasked with guiding the transformation of the regional agri-food system towards full commercialisation. A prime focus was to address the rising food import bill and to stimulate investment in agriculture and food production.
By the 33rd Inter-Sessional Conference, President Ali had presented a detailed plan for commercialising the agri-food sector while reducing the food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025. Emphasis was placed on countries and their respective target areas. The Heads of State had also agreed on an agriculture forum and expo, cementing a platform for investment in the regional agriculture sector.