Agri-development – COVID-19 to headline CARICOM heads of government meeting in Belize

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CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett

By Kellon Rover

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – The 33 Inter-Sessional meeting of CARICOM heads of government, set to open on Tuesday, March 1, will dive into the severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Caribbean nations, and their efforts at economic recovery.

CARICOM’s secretary-general, Dr Carla Barnett, said the meeting will also address agriculture development, food and nutrition and will engage social partners like the private sector.

The CARICOM chief met with journalists virtually on Monday, ahead of the conference, which will be held in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize, March 1-2, 2022.

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“We will expect the participation of all 15 member states and the majority of associate members of the community… Our chairman of the session is the chairman of conference, the honourable prime minister John Antonio Briceño. All is set for a very productive meeting.  We are looking forward to enjoying the conversation tomorrow, and to make some definitive conclusions coming out of the meeting.”

Other items on the agenda include the robust implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), climate change and the preparations for COP 27.

“And so, there is a lot that is on the table for discussion and we are looking forward to having really energetic and productive discussions at this meeting.”

President of Guyana, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali left Guyana Sunday to attend the two-day confab. And according to information from the CARICOM Secretariat, the opening session on Tuesday will feature remarks by secretary-general D. Barnett; outgoing CARICOM chairman, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne; and CARICOM chairman, prime minister Briceño.

The opening session begins at 10:00 hours (Belize Time). Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for agriculture, agricultural diversification and food security in CARICOM.

Dr Ali has been proactive in pushing an aggressive food agenda to ensure Guyana and the region’s food import bill is reduced significantly. He believes that in order for regional food security and resilience to be achieved, governments must think about transforming their food systems.

It is against this backdrop Dr Ali has been keen on improving food system and continues to work to create a pathway that will enhance the overall development in the region.

“Agriculture is once again on the front burner. I know this to be true because Guyana, as you know, holds lead responsibility for agriculture… Guyana does not take this responsibility lightly. We have demonstrated our willingness and commitment from the very onset to lead from the front,” the head of state said previously.

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He also believes that the Caribbean has the resources to ensure greater food security and should take advantage of the economic opportunities.

“It remains a travesty that our region, blessed with arable lands, abundant freshwater supplies and skilled agricultural workers, imports more than US$5 billion annually. We have the means to slash original food import bill, produce more of the food we consume, and the process generates sustainable livelihoods through agriculture.” 

President Ali stands committed to working with the CARICOM Member States in achieving the target of reducing food importation by 25 percent in 2025.

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