BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Grenada’s farmers can look forward to increasing their exports of fresh produce following the implementation of the Agri-Food Sector Development and Strengthening of the National Food Safety System project.
Launched on September 29, 2021, and financed by the European Union’s EPA and CSME Standby Facility, the two-year EUR 236,070 project will help to strengthen the productive capacity and significantly improve the collection and distribution of fresh produce in Grenada. The initiative will offer training to those along the agriculture value chain in food safety management and also provide refrigerated trucks for transportation of fresh produce to enhance output quality and minimise loss and wastage.
According to Daniel Best, director projects department, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), “the Project has been specially designed to provide benefits through the strengthening of the value chain and support services for expansion of Grenada’s export of fresh produce to both existing high growth markets, strengthening trade to CARIFORUM and expanding trade to potential new markets including the EU.”
Luis Maia, the head of cooperation at the EU delegation to Barbados, positioned the project in the region’s current socio-economic context, noted: “We can all appreciate the value of a project like this in the face of the current COVID-19 pandemic which has led to the reduction in economic growth in key sectors so vital to small island economies…The further development of the agriculture sector will be crucial to achieve diversification and improve economic resilience”.
Also speaking at the launch, Grenada’s minister of finance, Gregory Bowen cited the project’s socio-economic impact indicating that MSMEs stand to benefit from these efforts and contribute to economic diversification. The project, he indicated will “undoubtedly help to cement the footprint of agri-food processors on the regional and international trade market. There is a need to support agri-food processors to expand their businesses. It is anticipated that this [project] will increase job opportunities, particularly for women and youth as they sometimes face difficulties finding opportunities in certain sectors,” said the minister.
Agriculture in Grenada contributes to 6.4 percent of GDP and generates 7.3 percent employment. Since 2014, the country has averaged 30 percent annual growth in the sector.
Against this background, Jacinta Joseph, permanent secretary at the ministry of trade, Grenada noted the project was timely, aligning with the government’s development agenda for boosting the contribution of the agriculture and fisheries sector by prioritising investment in infrastructure, improving market access, food security, organic production and safe, healthy consumption.
Joseph suggested that one of the consequences of Covid-19 was the need to strengthen the resilience of the region’s food systems.
“Our ability to enter and compete in new markets will be enhanced through the improvement of the infrastructure needed to maintain the quality and safety of goods and services and to ensure the conformity with international standards,” said Joseph.
Ambassador David Prendergast, Director, CARICOM Single Market and Sectoral Programmes at the CARICOM Secretariat, highlighted the project’s potential contribution to building economic resilience, “market access and trade, especially under the Economic Partnership Agreement, are fundamental to the growth and expansion of trading relations between CARIFORUM and the EU,” adding that sustainable agriculture was indispensable to the region and the strengthening and functioning of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, as it is a continuous source of livelihood to rural populations and a contributor to growth and development of several Caribbean economies.
As such, agriculture continues to be a priority of the CARICOM Heads who have challenged the region to invest in agriculture with a focus on reducing the food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.
Grenada’s Marketing and National Importing Board’s (MNIB) chief executive officer Afiya Joseph expressed gratitude for the much-needed partnerships and the strategic collaborations which brought the project to fruition. The benefits to their clients and those along the value chain would be significant and further enable the MNIB to further achieve its mandate of promoting local produce.
Robert Medford of the Grenada Bureau of Standards (GDBS), the project’s implementing agency, indicated that the activity would directly and positively impact the agri-food sector and supporting agency which plays a highly critical role in the eco-system.