Caricom achieves 57% of Guyana-led food security target
Member States of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) have collectively achieved a significant 57 per cent of the target set to realise “Vision 25 by 2025”, an initiative led by Guyana that will see the Region moving closer towards achieving food security.
This announcement was made during the first Caricom Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on Food Production and Food Security meeting for 2023.
A statement from the Agriculture Ministry stated that countries submitted reports detailing their production data for 2022 for targeted commodities, as Caricom moves towards lowering the regional import bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025.
It was reported that products such as cocoa, dairy, meat, root crops, fruits, and poultry have already reached 96.13 per cent, 84.36 per cent, 72.28 per cent, 70.91 per cent, 70.77 per cent and 70.19 per cent, respectively, for the targeted production volume set for 2025.
Moreover, countries such as Guyana, Belize, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Dominica, and Jamaica have made significant advances in the production of commodities such as ginger, turmeric, corn, soya bean, root crops, fruits, cocoa, poultry, meat, fish, table eggs, and dairy.
The report also indicated that for 2022, Guyana produced some 20,195 metric tonnes of ginger and turmeric, 144,289 metric tonnes of root crops, 21,870 metric tonnes of fish, and 40,749 metric tonnes of coconut.
During the 104th Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), trade policies for animal and animal products, a regional agricultural health and food safety policy, special sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) guidelines for 19 commodities, and alternative SPS settlement mechanisms were approved.
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha noted that these are great achievements for the Task Force. He explained that with these mechanisms in place, a level playing field is being created, making way for easier trade in agricultural products, intra-regionally.
“These four achievements are testimony to the hard work of the MTF. If we are allowed to increase intra-regional trade, we will be well on the way to reducing the regional food import bill which is the ultimate goal of Caricom in keeping with its food security agenda. In just one year, collaborative efforts among member states have yielded much success,” Minister Mustapha voiced.
Mustapha, who chairs the Caricom Ministerial Task Force, indicated that several priority areas have been identified for 2023, including agriculture insurance and financing, trade and e-agriculture, resource mobilisation, and trade support.
These, he explained, will help to advance the efforts of the MTF and Caricom as it works towards achieving “Vision 25 by 2025”.
The meeting, which was held virtually, saw attendance from Ministers of Agriculture from across the Region, along with representatives of the Caricom Member States, the Caricom Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and other regional officials and stakeholders.
In 2021, President Dr Irfaan Ali had declared that his Government would be pursuing an aggressive campaign to dismantle regional barriers to agricultural trade and, with the assistance of more diversified crops, Guyana would aim to reduce Caricom’s food import bill by 25 per cent. Since then, efforts have taken off within the Region through collaboration with various countries to make this a reality.
As of last year, the Caribbean carried a weighty food import bill of US$6 billion per annum. Inflated food costs among other factors had created a sense of dependence in the Region.