CARICOM leaders support Guyana in ‘20 by 2025 agenda’
…to cut food imports by 25% by 2025
Guyana continues to receive the support of countries within the Caribbean Community (Caricom) as it leads efforts to reduce the region’s high food import bill through the “25 by 2025” initiative.
To this end, the country will be hosting the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) from May 19 to 21 to bring together producers, importers and exporters, investors and other players to promote and improve the region’s productivity and resilience of its agri-food systems.
The event will be held under the theme: “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025”.
Speaking at the launch on Friday, Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, whose Ministry is collaborating with the Caricom Secretariat to host the event, said among the objectives of the forum is to create opportunities that will promote food security in the region.
He noted that this will be one of many initiatives undertaken to pave new pathways that will reduce the region’s almost US$6 billion food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025.
“It is the intent that this will be a great push to cross-border investment in the Caricom member states for investment to stimulate agriculture diversification, increase production, and achieve food security… This forum provides a unique platform to nurture, develop and expand our partnership base even further. We must seize this opportunity. We – and the rest of the Caribbean region – stand only to benefit,” Mustapha stated.
The two principal objectives of the event are matching bankable agricultural projects with available private and public financing, and making potential investors and other stakeholders aware of new and emerging opportunities in Caricom agriculture, including technological and logistical solutions. It will focus on specific areas in the food value chain including: primary production (farm and field); agro processing (including post-harvesting and marketing); logistics (distribution, shipping, air cargo), and infrastructural development, including in the areas of finance and technology.
According to the Agriculture Minister, “the forum will be a great opportunity allowing for full interaction among those in attendance, and ultimately facilitating the matching between bankable projects and prospective investors”.
Meanwhile, Caricom Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett pointed out during Friday’s launch that there is no better time than now to do what is needed to better withstand future crises as a region.
“The time for bold and decisive action is now. This is the clearest opportunity for the Caricom Region to seize control, and chart its own destiny in food and nutrition security. We must get it right this time if we are to grow our agri sector and develop our economies.
Too often as a Region, we have not been able to take advantage of what is right in front of us and we will do that now,” she stated.
Dr Barnett posited that agriculture remains a major pillar of Caricom Member States’ economies, and has the potential to contribute significantly to economic resilience and drive inclusive socio-economic development across the region.
To this end, she noted that the upcoming forum and expo will provide the perfect opportunity to not only further the development of the region’s agri food systems but also set a solid foundation for a platform that will accelerate and propel intra-regional trade and economic development.
“We have a cadre of hard-working farmers, agro-processors and marketers, all of whom deserve our assistance in the delivery of technological, logistical and financial solutions aimed at raising their levels of competitiveness… The forum and expo will bring together investors and other stakeholders who will share information on the specific opportunities that exist for enhanced commercial activity. It is therefore expected that, coming out of this engagement, there will be concrete investment opportunities that can be pursued and for which the necessary support can be provided,” the Caricom SG asserted.
Another major stakeholder supporting the efforts towards achieving the 25 by 2025 target is the private sector – both locally and regionally. The Guyana’s Private Sector Commission (PSC) and Republic Bank (Guyana) Limited, which is plugging funds into this regional initiative, have lauded the upcoming event.
In fact, the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo will also see participation by other Caricom nations including Belize, St Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) and Barbados – all of whom have expressed their support for the Guyana-led 25 by 2025 target.
“We have a solemn obligation, to our people, to feed our people…this is now our mission. I trust and pray that those of us who come to Georgetown on May 19 will find it possible, therefore, to pull together all aspects of the plan necessary – from planting, from raring livestock, to logistics, to marketing, to packing and of course, advertising,” Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley stated during brief virtual remarks at Friday’s launch.
She was joined by SVG’s Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves, and current Caricom Chair, Prime Minister of Belize John Briceno, both of whom spoke, virtually also, about the importance of collaboration and urged regional stakeholders to participate in next month’s forum and expo.
Already, some 20 international companies, 33 regional companies and 53 local companies and at least four global institutions have confirmed their participation in the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo. (G8)