“We must stop thinking we are too small to advance in int’l markets” – Pres Ali

…as he delivers feature address at opening of Agro Fest in Barbados

As the Caribbean works on enhancing its productivity to reduce its high food import bill and ensure food security, President Dr Irfaan Ali contended that the Region has a unique opportunity also to tap into world markets as a supplier.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

He was at the time delivering the feature address at the opening of ‘Agro Fest’ on Friday evening in Bridgetown, Barbados, which is being held from May 28-29 under theme: “Greening Together Ah Caribbean Thing”.
President Ali pointed out that the Guyana-Barbados Food Terminal initiative, which the two countries are developing as a means to address the hurdles of transportation and logistics in the Region, is not only aimed at helping the movement of products and reducing the cost of local produce but also provides the opportunity to access new markets.

Guyanese exhibitors stepping up for the Agro Fest that commences today

“It is aimed at developing an important transhipment hub for food here in Barbados to move on to different hotel chains in other Caribbean islands, and to move on to Miami. We must believe that we can do it. We must stop thinking narrowly that we cannot achieve these things… We’re setting bold targets. We are working on bold and innovative ideas. At the end of it, it is only bold thinking, bold initiatives, and pursuing those initiatives and ideas that would ensure we are successful,” he asserted.
According to the Head of State, the aim is to create a value chain for development in the region. He further dismissed naysayers who are claiming that the region’s plan is too ambitious, noting that there needs to be proactive action by all stakeholders.
“Our market is not only the people in the region. Our market is the tourists who come here, our market is all those who we have trade agreements with and we must stop thinking that we are too small to advance our products in those markets. We can differentiate our products. We can have the best of organic pineapples that carry twice the market value but we have to be thinking people.”
“The Caribbean and this Region, we are blessed with thinking people. But sometimes we spend too much time talking and pondering. Great ideas died because we spend too much time pondering and talking. We have taken the bold step of setting ourselves target as regional leaders so you can hold us accountable to those targets,” the Guyanese leader stated.
However, President Ali posited that in order to accomplish these targets, all stakeholders have a responsibility to come on board.
The Head of State reiterated that Caricom (Caribbean Community) and its leaders are all confident in achieving the “25 by 2025” target, that is, reducing the Region’s high food import bill by 25 per cent by the year 2025 in order to enhance its food security in the face of an impending global food crisis.
According to Ali, the Caribbean is not a priority when it comes to shortages in the global market hence the current push by leaders to place agriculture at the centre of the Region’s development. He noted that this starts with increasing food production within Member States.
However, he noted that while the Region is currently working on a master plan to enhance its food production capacity, build a support system for farmers and address its transportation and logistics system, it must also be conscious of the immediate need to secure food supply in the near future.
“We have to look at markets that can sustain our supply in the immediate future because a major food catastrophe is coming,” he stated.
It is for this reason, that President Ali said Guyana and Barbados have sought to strengthen bilateral relations on a number of fronts that will create a win-win model for both nations and bring prosperity among its peoples.
Currently, there is a group of young Barbadians in Guyana being trained on shade house development. Simultaneously, Guyana is preparing pre-fab shade-houses to ship to Barbados that will be developed by those trained young people to accelerate agriculture in the island state.
Already, Guyana has benefited from one thousand black belly sheep from Barbados that was launched in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) with special emphasis being placed on women and young people to take the lead in this project.

The aim is to make Guyana, and eventually the Caribbean, a livestock capital.
According to President Ali, Barbados will soon benefit from the advanced technology and innovation of operators from northern Brazil in the State of Roraima in livestock rearing. He explained that the embryo project of the Brazilian state –artificial insemination – can double the livestock in all of Caricom in just nine months with the best possible bread of animals.
“The technology is there; the science is supporting it. We now have to embrace that science and that technology,” he asserted.
Moreover, Dr Ali revealed that Guyana and Barbados are also working to bring together their Private Sectors to look at opportunities in both countries in order to help with capital formation. In fact, a delegation of over 150 Guyanese is currently in Barbados to participate in the Agro Fest.
Some 56 Guyanese businesses and State entities, ranging from agro-processors to furniture manufacturers and jewellers, are participating in the expo through a collaboration between the Guyana Government and the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSA) and the Private Sector Commission (PSC).
President Ali is accompanied by several Government representatives including Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha and the Tourism, Industry and Commerce Minister Oneidge Walrond.