By Synieka Thorne
GEORGETOWN, Guyana, (DPI) – Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were called upon to remove barriers to trade among nations, in order to achieve food security within the region.
The call was made at the launch of the premier Agri-Food Investment Forum and Expo at the National Cultural Centre (NCC) on Thursday.
The three-day Forum and Expo aims to achieve the 25 percent by 2025 vision of reducing regional food imports. It also seeks to stimulate increased investment and expenditure in the agriculture and food value chain, and support infrastructural sectors, strengthen cooperation and economic integration in the agri-food industry, and seek practicable solutions to foster intra-regional trade.
His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali led the CARICOM delegation in attendance including, prime minister of Belize & chairman of CARICOM, John Antonio Briceño, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, prime minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, prime minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Keith Rowley, premier of Montserrat, Joseph Farrell, and deputy prime minister and minister of tourism, investments & aviation of The Bahamas, Isaac Chester Cooper.
Leading the charge was prime minister Briceño who said CARICOM Member States must do better to remove impositions and barriers affecting trade regionally. He said [we must] “use our efforts and energies to adopt policies to support the growth of our productive sector, improve market facilitation and develop international transportation.”
Addressing the issue of regional food security, Briceño stated that there must first be an appreciation for the fact that there are dedicated CARICOM farmers and agro-processors, who are knowledgeable and skilled enough to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist within the region, to attain food security and enhance economic activity.
While welcoming the forum which brought together member states and other key stakeholders, the CARICOM commended the president Ali led-administration’s role in leading the charge for agriculture and food security.
“As heads, we are convinced that president Ali’s plans for agricultural development in the region are realistic and more so, they are imperative if we are to achieve food security for our CARICOM region.”
Echoing similar sentiments, prime minister Mottley said it is time to accelerate the advocacy to remove the international trade barriers that have strangled the region. She noted that: “we expect our farmers to produce for us only in a crisis; they have to be able to produce all year round.”
She added: “We have a responsibility now to change mindsets and to change policies…because if we don’t make the steps now to remove the barriers, God knows how we can create the productive base that president Ali has so masterfully drafted for us, in terms of the plans to expand productivity, and to expand production.”
Similarly, the Barbados prime minister said that CARICOM Member States have to ensure that ports- of -entry are priority areas of investments to facilitate the movement of cargo and people.
“We have a responsibility to take preemptive action in this region to protect our people and that is why all of us meet in Georgetown today, against this backdrop, ” PM Mottley emphasised.
The investment forum and expo is being held under the theme: “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025” at the Arthur Chung Convention Center (ACCC).
It will also see engagements and inform dialogue among key stakeholders along the agri-food value chain-policymakers, development partners, foreign and local private investors, farmers, and distributors – on how investment could be encouraged. Stakeholders within the industry are also exhibiting their products and services.