President Ali urges review of regional food security strategy

7th Caricom-Cuba Heads of State Summit

…pledges increased collaboration to combat COVID-19 risk

President Dr Irfaan Ali has urged that the Caribbean Community (Caricom) review the inter-regional trade mechanism and its food security, in an effort to strengthen the bloc and place greater focus on an Agriculture and Food Security Strategy.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

He made these pronouncements during his address to the 7th virtual Summit of the Heads of State of Caricom and the Republic of Cuba on Tuesday. In his inaugural speech at the summit, Ali stressed the importance of food and nutrition security for well-being and for ensuring greater human dignity among citizens.
“I further support (Barbados) Prime Minister (Mia) Motley’s call for us as a region to relook at our food security issue, to relook at our food strategy, at our agricultural strategy. And to do so in a way that will enable us to fulfil, as a region, our food requirement. To have the right mix of investment, to have the right agricultural portfolio that would meet the requirements of our regional food needs.”
The President also pointed to the importance of not only strengthening the agricultural sector, but creating the right environment to facilitate greater trade between Caricom and Cuba. He noted that this is particularly in agricultural products, which the Caricom/Cuba Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (TECA) supports.
According to the President, in expanding agriculture and in making greater capital investment in the sector, the need arises for bigger markets. But the President also zeroed in on the role Cuba plays.
“And of course, Cuba plays an important part in terms of the size of our market. We can do this together, we can strategise together, and we can formulate this plan together. But importantly, as Prime Minister Motley said, we have to move into action, we have to move into a new decade of action, so that we can see in the near future, the results of these strategies.”
Ali also emphasised on the strong bilateral relations between Guyana and Cuba. These ties exist in several areas, including technical cooperation, collaboration to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, disaster risk reduction as well as trade.

When it comes to the health sector, President Ali reiterated Guyana’s commitment to the global efforts aimed at bringing an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, while also acknowledging Cuba’s contribution to the public health sector.
He pledged the country’s continued collaboration with like-minded states and partners to protect the health of all citizens, ensure equitable access to quality essential health services, safe and affordable medicines, as well as access to vaccines when available.
“Cuba’s experience in public health is greatly respected. It is inconceivable for our region to confront such a deadly pandemic without utilising the public health experience and expertise of Cuba.”
In the area of technical cooperation, the President reminded all of the strong ties between Caricom and Cuba which have led to collaboration at various levels. The Summit, he said, therefore allows for reflection and reformulation of a programme of continued engagement between Cuba and the Community.
He also expressed gratitude to the Government of Cuba for their efforts in facilitating a Regional Centre for Stimulating the Development of Children, Adolescents and Young People with Special Educational Needs Associated with Disabilities, located in Guyana.
The Centre aims to train persons to manage individuals with disabilities through evaluation and diagnosis, language therapy, occupational therapy, psychological treatment, prevention, rehabilitation and social integration services with a pedagogical and socially inclusive approach.
“This Centre allows us the opportunity, with adequate training, to build a more inclusionary society. I, therefore, wish to once again place on record our thanks for the valuable technical assistance made available by the Government of Cuba to facilitate the establishment of this Centre. I wish to emphasize my Government’s commitment to the fulfilment of the Centre’s objectives.”

In addition, the Guyanese Head of State also acknowledged the benefits of continued collaboration and engagement in the area of disaster risk reduction. Natural disasters, he reminded, are now among the greatest threats to long-term development worldwide, and more specifically, here in our region.
“Guyana welcomes the dialogue with Cuba in respect to reducing our region’s exposure to natural hazards and the concomitant risks to people, property and the natural environment. This dialogue can only aid in improving our preparedness for such events.”

Diplomatic relations
Caricom and Cuba continue to enjoy a strong relationship since diplomatic relations were established in 1972 with Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The relationship has been underpinned by several formal institutional links including the triennial meetings of the Heads of State which commenced on December 8, 2002.
Caricom Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque opened the Summit in the virtual presence of President Ali, Heads of State and Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community and the Republic of Cuba.
The 7th Caricom-Cuba Summit is being convened against the backdrop of a global environment dominated by the coronavirus pandemic and its multifaceted repercussions. Cuba has been pivotal in providing assistance to Caricom member States by dispatching healthcare personnel.