Guyana commits to assist in finding solutions to address global food security concerns
With Guyana already being proactive at the national and regional levels in efforts to achieve food security, the country has now committed to do the same on the international field to curb the ongoing food crisis around the world.
This assurance was given by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd on Wednesday at a high-level Ministerial Meeting of Foreign Ministers at the United Nations Headquarters on “Global Food Security Call to Action.” He was invited to the forum by United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The High-level meeting was convened to address the accelerating rises in food prices, and the shortages of fertilisers, both of which threaten to destabilise fragile societies, deepen extreme poverty, increase hunger, expand already record-high humanitarian needs, increase migration, and cause further economic dislocation.
Minister Todd in his address to the Assembly, which included United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, underscored the Government of Guyana’s commitment to finding solutions to address the global food security concerns.
He emphasised the fact that agriculture is a major anchor of Guyana’s non-oil economy, and informed that the Government’s priority is to increase domestic production as well as agro-processing capabilities, while focusing on both traditional and non-traditional crops.
The Foreign Affairs Minister also highlighted the threats posed by food insecurity to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In this regard, he outlined Guyana’s ambitious food security agenda in relation to the priorities at the national level, and at the level of the Caribbean Community (Caricom), to improve food security and resilience.
Minister Todd further noted that President Dr Irfaan Ali, who is the lead Head of Government responsible for Agriculture and Agriculture Diversification and Food Security, is currently advancing Caricom’s strategy on the Agri-Food Systems Agenda: Prioritising Regional Food and Nutrition Security. The agenda aims to commercialise the agri-food sector, boost food supplies, and enhance food and nutrition security in the region; and reduce the food imports by 25 per cent by 2025.
The Minister further stated that Guyana would be hosting the 38th Session of the Food and Agriculture Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean in 2024 (LARC38). The LARC offers a vital space for deliberation among countries of the region on priorities for the agri-food sector with a view to promoting alignment with global policy frameworks, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Guyana’s hosting of LARC38 is founded on the longstanding priority attached to efforts for the continuous development and modernisation of the agri-food sector, both locally and in the Caribbean sub-region.
On the other hand, Minister Todd also alluded to the vulnerabilities that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face – including food security concerns – and called for the finalisation of the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index.
At conclusion of Wednesday’s high-level meeting, Guyana endorsed the chair’s Roadmap for Global Food Security – Call to Action, which outlines approaches to be taken in curbing the ongoing food crisis.
This comes on the heels of Guyana currently hosting the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo to propel the Caribbean’s drive to reduce its high food import bill and move closer towards food security.
The three-day event, which commenced on Thursday, saw the participation of several regional leaders as well as scores of exhibitors, both local and international. It is anticipated that Guyana would be the hub for potential investment talks during the forum.
Over 250 exhibitors will be on display at the expo, with international stakeholders coming from countries such as Jamaica, the United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana and Barbados. Some 82 local agro-processors are participating in the event.
During the Forum and Expo, potential investors and donors would discuss emerging opportunities for agriculture in Caricom. A matching of bankable agricultural projects with willing private and public financiers would also advance the food system agenda for the region.
However, even as global leaders look to address the accelerating food prices and the shortages of fertilisers, the Guyana Government only this week announced that $1 billion worth of fertilisers would be bought for free distribution to farmers across the country. This is expected to reduce the expenses of farmers and result in cheaper prices at the markets for food.
“This initiative will significantly reduce input cost and help ensure scaled up production and adequate supply of output, which is critical to maintaining price stability,” President Ali explained.
This measure, he noted, would be financed by the $5B allocated in Budget 2022 for the purpose of easing the impact of rising cost of living of locals.