Agri-Investment Forum, Expo proves CARICOM’s readiness to drive food system, says president Ali

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At the opening of the event at the National Cultural Centre in Georgetown, Guyana, are from left: Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr Carla Barnett, President of Guyana, H.E. Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, Prime Minister of Belize and Chair of CARICOM, John Briceno, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr Keith Rowley; Deputy Prime Minister of The Bahamas, Isaac Chester Cooper; Premier of Montserrat, Joseph Farrell

By Kellon Rover

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – The inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo which opened at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) on Thursday, clearly proves Caricom’s readiness to collectively drive the region’s food production system.

President, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, said the regional leaders stand ready to advance every aspect of the food sector, whether in production, trade relations, issues of markets and barriers; transport and logistics.

The Guyanese leader, who also heads the agriculture agenda in Caricom, was at the time giving welcoming remarks at the official ceremonial lunch of the event, at the National Cultural Centre (NCC).

He emphasised that as leaders, the overarching strategy should be aimed at streamlining procedures for exports and imports – a time-bound commitment to the removal of barriers, developing a pre-clearance system to export goods, to reduce bureaucracy and spoilage, standardisation of certification process and technical support in developing business proposals for farmers, among other things.

“Every single issue is on the table because we recognise if we cannot address these issues in a collective, multifaceted manner, then we will not be able to bring the long-term solutions that are so critically required, and that is why the private sector is the center of what we’re doing, and the private sector here includes the farmers,” he stressed.

President Ali said the global use of cereal, wheat, corn and soya is projected to increase to three million tonnes by 2030, and developing countries will account for almost 90 percent of this projected increase.

Three–quarters of the increase is attributed to feed consumption, with expanding livestock and poultry sectors. Already, the pressure is on the poultry and livestock sectors, because of feed input costs, and this is not expected to get better, Dr Ali underscored.

Wheat prices are forecast to increase by more than 40 percent by 2022, while consumption is expected to increase by 12 percent. The challenge for developing countries and Caricom states is not only the rise in prices, but the supply.

The head of state pointed out that global production of mutton is expected to grow by 15 percent, while consumption is expected to grow to 18 million tonnes by 2030. The production growth for dairy is expected at 1.7 percent per annum by 2030, while per capita consumption of dairy products is likely to increase by 1.2 percent per annum.

Moreover, fertiliser has seen a 100 percent increase as of March 2022, while Caricom has reported a 17.1 percent increase in transport expenses due to higher bunker prices and charter rates.

Dr Ali even stressed that global fish production reached 179 million tonnes in 2018. Close to 50 percent of this production came from aquaculture.

He said it is not feasible to import billions of dollars in products that can be produced in the region, iterating that vision 25 is looking at investment by countries to collectively reduce these imports by 25 percent.

To achieve this, the head of state explained that challenges have to be resolved in partnership with the private sector in the areas of financing, logistics and transport, improving primary production, improving agro-processing, linking market to produce and most importantly, trade barriers that continue to halt efforts at working as a collective.

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