Inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo kicks off today
Scores of exhibitors, both local and international, as well as regional leaders will be in Guyana over the next three days for the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo – the premier event that is being hosted to propel the Caribbean’s drive to reduce its high food import bill and move closer towards food security.
The event will get underway today with a grand opening ceremony at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) after which officials will head to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), where the exhibition will be held over the next three days. It is being hosted by the Government of Guyana and the CARICOM Secretariat under the theme, “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025.”
Additionally, regional agencies are set to participate in a round table discussion this afternoon following the official opening of the event. The donor agencies will work directly with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to discuss their options and interests.
Regional leaders started arriving in Guyana for the three-day event days ago. Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr Keith Rowley was the first to land on Guyana’s shores on Tuesday with his delegation. On Wednesday, the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahamas I. Chester Cooper, and Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Motley arrived here earlier in the day.
Other Caricom leaders expected to attend the agri forum and expo include Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne; Prime Minister of Belize Johnny Briceno; Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit; Prime Minister of St. Lucia Philip Pierre, and Premier of Montserrat Joseph Easton Taylor- Farrell. They were slated to arrive in Guyana late Wednesday.
Moreover, the Agriculture Ministers of the Bahamas, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Dominica and Barbados will also be part of this event.
Undertaking the mantle to lead the agri-food agenda for the Caribbean Region while cutting the colossal food import bill, Guyana will be the hub for potential investment talks this week at the inaugural Agri-Investment Expo and Forum.
Over 250 exhibitors will display their booth, with international stakeholders from countries such as Jamaica, the United States of America, Trinidad and Tobago, Ghana and Barbados.
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha shared during Monday’s update of the event that 82 local agro-processors will be involved. Some 550 delegates – 400 of whom are overseas-based – will be in attendance.
During the event, potential investors and donors will discuss emerging opportunities for agriculture in Caricom. A matching of bankable agricultural projects with willing private and public financiers will also advance the food system agenda for the region.
At the 32rd Inter-Sessional Conference of the Caricom Heads of Government, a special ministerial taskforce was established and tasked with guiding the transformation of the regional agri-food system towards full commercialisation. A prime focus was to address the rising food import bill and to stimulate investment in agriculture and food production.
By the 33rd sessional conference held in March this year, President Irfaan Ali had presented a detailed plan for commercialising the agri-food sector and at the same time, attaining the vision for reducing the food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025. Emphasis was placed on countries and their respective target areas. The Heads of States had also agreed on an agriculture forum and expo, cementing a platform for investment in the regional agriculture sector.
“The forum is therefore geared towards the promotion, engagement and informed dialogue among key stakeholders along the agri-food value chain of policymakers, development partners, foreign and local private investors, farmers, distributors, and on how investment could be encouraged,” the agriculture minister asserted on Monday.
Assistant Secretary General for Trade and Economic Integration at the Caricom Secretariat, Joseph Cox zeroed in on the US$6 billion food import bill for the region during the press conference, identifying the vast potential for investors to tap into.
“That’s US$6 billion of potential opportunities for the region that we have to seek to capitalise on. We’re extremely buoyed by the interest that has been shown from countries all over the world and indeed by participants who continue to bombard us at Caricom and Guyana in terms on how they can participate. There is an appetite for it and it is full time that we start to treat with, and confront the opportunities that exist,” the Caricom official stated.
Meanwhile, the three-day exhibition will showcase every aspect of agriculture including live animals, agricultural machinery and aquaculture.
The expo will be opened to the public from 14:00h to 19:00h on Thursday, and from 10:00h to 19:00h on Friday and Saturday.
In order to facilitate the event, the several major roadways in Georgetown and leading to the Conference Centre will be closed off to regular vehicle traffic.
For the ceremonial opening today, Homestretch Avenue will be completely closed off to vehicular traffic from 08:00 to 13:00h, and then again at 18:00h to midnight; while from 11:00h to 16:00h, the Railway Embankment will be closed to traffic proceeding east and west between Conversation Tree Road and U.G. Road.
On Friday, there will be no vehicular traffic on Main Street between Lamaha and Middle Street, as well as on Carmichael Street between Middle and New Market streets from 19:00h to midnight. (G8)