BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The Caribbean Development Bank’s (CDB) vice president of operations, Isaac Solomon encouraged the bank’s member countries to prioritise food security initiatives while accelerating efforts towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Speaking at the CDB’s food security seminar held on June 1, 2022, the vice president expressed a desire for the relay of “tangible and implementable actions, to contribute to the Region’s agenda to achieve food security and reduce its import bill by 25 percent by 2025” adding that “with less than eights years left until 2030, it is imperative that the region accelerate all efforts towards the achievement of the SDGS and our development now.”
The webinar which was attended by a cross-section of global experts and participants, provided recommendations for coherent approaches to managing logistics and reducing processing and exportation costs of agri-food products within the Caribbean. Solutions proposed included deepening regional cooperation and integration which alongside the implementation of systems to accommodate seamless cross border trade, the application of digital solutions, simplification of procedures and increasing the efficiency in trade and logistics processes would positively impact food security stated senior trade facilitation officer at the International Trade Centre (ITC), Pierre Bonthonneau.
According to Bonthonneau, who presented at the seminar, the Caribbean can impact its current food import metrics and the availability of affordable food for citizens by making trade formalities more effective, pursuing greater investment in technology-based initiatives while also embracing trade reforms and robust private-public dialogue and engagement.
Several of these solutions are being supported by CDB which is funding projects targeting connectivity, transport, digital interventions for trade and enhancing infrastructure at ports of entry. Creating an appropriate ecosystem to achieve the SDGs, according to the vice president, requires innovation and responsiveness to address social, financial, environmental, institutional, and economic challenges of regional food security which is embedded in CARICOM’s and CDB’s agenda.
The ITC senior trade facilitation officer emphasised that both private and public sector entities have a responsibility to institute measures to make the pricing of commodities cost-effective given the fact that two-thirds of the world’s population depends on imports to ensure a healthy diet. For the Caribbean region with its high food import bill, he indicated, solutions would revolve around regional coordination, regulatory convergence and leveraging information technology solutions. Beyond this, remedies for building out the agri-food sector should leverage the Word Trade Organisation (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) which set binding obligations in countries to minimize red tape.
This will allow border agencies to more effectively treat with perishable goods, pre-arrival processing, rejected goods and reviewing and simplifying formalities so that the cost of agricultural products can remain affordable. Easing trade-in agri-foods will positively contribute the region’s vision to achieve at least five SDGs – zero hunger, gender equality, climate action, responsible consumption and production and life below water.
Also speaking at the webinar were Nicholas Zephirin, managing director/chief executive officer, Viking Traders Ltd. Saint Lucia; Stephen Farquharson, technical officer – Accreditation and Conformity Assessment at the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and Erica Luke, managing director of Eric Hassell Shipping, Barbados.