Caricom leaders agree on urgency in implementing Pres Ali’s agriculture plan
– say sloth in executing Jagdeo Initiative in 2005 now hampering Region
The consensus among Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders coming out of the just-concluded Agri-Investment Forum and Expo, is that President Dr Irfaan Ali’s agriculture plan for achieving regional food security must be urgently implemented… least history repeats itself.
This is according to the outcome statement from the regional leaders who participated in the expo. The history in question is the 2005 Jagdeo Initiative, which was conceptualised by then President Bharrat Jagdeo to boost agriculture in the Region, but which the group noted was not adequately implemented regionally.
“The Group agreed that lack of action to implement the 2005 “Framework for the repositioning of Caribbean agriculture” (the Jagdeo Initiative) which was agreed by Caricom Governments, constrained the Community’s capacity to safeguard against the impact of the present crisis,” the outcome statement explained.
“In this connection, they welcomed the timely and important vision of the agricultural development plan presented by President Irfaan Ali of Guyana, at the Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom in March 2022.”
High-level representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Montserrat and Trinidad and Tobago, the Bahamas, Grenada, Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname, as well as regional and international institutions, participated in the investment forum.
According to the outcome statement, it was resolved during discussions to recommend, for the adoption by all Caricom Heads of Government, that food security is addressed urgently and sustainably in four priority areas; food insecurity, regional transportation, trade barriers, and women and youth.
“The agricultural plan, proposed by Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali to the Caricom Heads of Government Conference in March 2022, should be fully implemented as swiftly as possible, with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders.”
“In this regard, President Ali was requested to mandate the Ministerial Task Force on Food Security to propose an implementation schedule for urgent consideration by Heads of Government,” it was further explained. Guyana, through Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, chairs this Caricom task force.
On the issue of women and youth, it was recognised and affirmed that it is important for these demographics to participate in the agriculture sector. This will both increase the sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), but also empower these groups. It was therefore resolved that a study should be done.
“The Caricom Secretariat should be authorised to commission an urgent study, for consideration by the Special Meeting of Heads of Government proposed for the third quarter of this year, on ways to attract and expand the participation of youth and women by at least 20 per cent by 2025.”
“The terms of reference of the study should include machinery for providing credit; crop insurance; contract purchasing Bactroban visit the website of produce; and training including in the use of modern technology,” the outcome statement explained.
According to the representative group, it is important that these four priority areas be addressed, not only to surmount the current grave challenges of food shortages and high food prices that the Region faces, but to overcome them in a sustainable and lasting manner.
It was noted by the group that the current grave global situation has led to shortages and high prices on imported food. Additionally, the shortage and increased prices of fertilisers and other agricultural inputs, coupled by the problems affecting transportation and supply, have further driven up food prices.
“They noted with great concern that the Member States of Caricom have been deeply impacted by these developments which have resulted in a dramatic increase in the cost of food, exposing still further the Region’s food insecurity due to its vulnerability to external influences.”
“The Group recognised that, within Caricom, Member States have the capacity to attain a high level of food security for the Community as a whole, provided that urgent action is taken to establish sustainable machinery and to adhere to the terms of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” the group added.
Meanwhile, the work done by the Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security, in advising on the development of a Caricom food system, was recognised by the group. The expo, which concluded on Saturday, was also hailed for the deliberations it allowed and the recommendations made.
“They looked forward enthusiastically to maintaining the momentum, generated by this meeting, at a follow-up ‘Agriculture and Food Security Forum’ in Trinidad and Tobago in August 2022,” the outcome statement said.