Agricultural Economist with the OECS Commission, George Alcee told an OECS Forum held here last weekend that without a major injection of capital, agriculture will continue to flounder, with sub-optimal production, unsustainable farming practices, and dwindling revenues.
Sub-Regional Coordinator for the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the Caribbean, Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul noted that the region’s annual food import bill is estimated at four billion US dollars and that 85 per cent of the food consumed in the Caribbean is imported from outside the region, including lots of processed foods and meats.
She said that since the loss of major revenue earners such as sugar and bananas, Caribbean agriculture has struggled to regain its place as the major source of food for our populations, a source of rural employment, and a driver of economic growth.
A statement issued by the OECS Commission Wednesday, said that the panellists and stakeholders made a very strong case for the introduction of land use policy across the OECS to stop the practice of agricultural lands being used for commercial and industrial development.
“There was consensus on the view that government needs to do more to create the enabling environment for agriculture to thrive through direct capital investment in the sector, the introduction of new technologies in agriculture, and the provision of fiscal incentives to spur growth.
“On the other hand, it was felt that farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs need to adopt more of a business approach to Agriculture, if the sector is to remain viable and competitive,” the statement noted.
It said the forum also agreed that the future of agriculture is in the hands of the youth, and so, more young persons need to be encouraged to go into agriculture as a viable career choice, and one that is becoming increasingly driven by technology and innovation.
The forum was held under the theme “Agriculture: Investing in the Caribbean’s Food Bowl” and delegates also discussed the diversification into non-traditional crops, agro processing, agri-business development, domestic production, food security, and a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) funded agro shipping Initiative being implemented by the OECS Commission, to increase intra-region shipping of agricultural commodities.
The forum is part of the public education component of the Economic Integration and Trade Programme of the OECS region, funded by the 10th European Development Fund.
- Countries: Caribbean