Guyana to drive food agenda in Caribbean – Mustapha
Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha has signalled at enhanced endeavours from Guyana to deliver an agricultural agenda to the Caribbean region, that will advance food security and other critical concerns.
He made these remarks at the commissioning of a new office for the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. The secretariat is now located at the Ministry of Agriculture’s La Bonne Intention (LBI) Complex, having outgrown its previous location.
Guyana is now leading a ministerial task force in the region, aimed at examining a strategy to advance food systems across various countries and moreover, mitigating current food concerns for Governments.
“Guyana is once again taking its rightful place in the region’s agenda in terms of pushing agriculture, the agricultural agenda and food security…Now, our President has put forward a document to advance the agriculture agenda and food security in the Caribbean that was again adopted by the Caricom Heads of Government. As a result of that, we have seen ministerial task force set up, which Guyana is heading and pushing. I’m very optimistic that we, with the help of FAO and other partners, we can develop a strategy to advance our food security agenda and try to see how we can resolve the issues of food problems,” Mustapha identified.
The Agriculture Minister outlined that the Caribbean Community has an import bill of some US$5-8 billion. As such, he said there is need to tap into these markets with the help of international agencies.
“We are the first country in the Caribbean that started the national dialogue, leading up to the UN Food Systems Summit that will be held in September. So, we’re driving the food systems, the food agenda and the agriculture agenda in the Caribbean. I think that Guyana has a leading role to play in all these agenda.”
With the development of new crops and aquaculture industry, he expressed that collaboration is needed from the FAO and other partners. The Ministry is also exploring non-traditional crops, with trials to commence later this year in corn and soya.
“We are now formulating a document so we can launch aquaculture because there is great potential for aquaculture in the Caribbean and North America, where we could tap into these markets. Very shortly, we will launch the masterplan and we can now formulate a strategy for our aquaculture industry,” Mustapha underscored.
Meanwhile, Country Representative from the FAO, Dr Gillian Smith said the expanded space provides the agency with better resources to assist Government with current programmes in several areas.
Dr Smith detailed, “As a UN agency, we have been embedded in the Ministry of Agriculture which is probably the closest and most important partner that we have in the Government…We have been looking at how we can support and expand the work that Government has been doing and the people of Guyana are doing in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, rural development. This building helps us to be able to support and provide the kind of work and the quality of work that is required by Guyana. It is also, I think, a recognition of the importance that Guyana is increasingly playing in the Caribbean.”