GUYANA | CARICOM is serious about food security says Irfaan Ali

GUYANA | CARICOM is serious about food security says Irfaan Ali

MONTEGO BAY,  June 28, 2021 - The matter of Regional Food Security will be high on the agenda when CARICOM Heads of Government meet next week at the Forty-Second Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government next month.

Over the past year and a half, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the bare underbelly of the region’s food insecurity, and the need to move with alacrity in boosting food production in all member states, in light of the enormity of the region’s food import bill.

Lead for Agriculture in CARICOM quasi cabinet for Agriculture,  and head of Head of the Special Ministerial Taskforce (MTF) on Food Production and Food Security Guyana’s President Dr. Irfaan Ali met at the Eleventh Meeting of The Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) on Friday.

The meeting provided an update  on the April to June progress of the MTF and recommended that it be further considered at the Forty-Second Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government next month.

President Ali  urged the committee to prioritise the work of the Ministerial Taskforce and said he will move forward with those who are serious about getting the work done and to  take the CARICOM Agri-Food System Strategy forward.

He said  the implementation plans identified priority commodities such as poultry, other meats (beef, pork and mutton), corn, rice, niche vegetables and coconut products. He further stated that CARICOM has the ability to achieve the targets identified to lower these priority commodity imports by 2025 and the potential to increase coconut exports.

Ali reported that resource mobilisation had begun for the Regional E-Agriculture Strategy, and work is in progress for the development and implementation of both a Business-to-Business (B2B) Platform and a Government-to-Government (G2G) portal. He also noted that the successful hosting of the CARICOM Regional Food Systems Dialogue on May 28, 2021, was in preparation for the UN Food Systems Summit.

The Ministerial Taskforce recognised transport and logistics as integral to the effective implementation of the CARICOM agri-food systems agenda.

“In examining the potential and competitiveness of the sector as you would have expected, transportation is one of the critical issues that is linked to food production and for regional trade,” President Ali said.  

To this end, he has engaged the Lead Head on Transport with a view to developing specific recommendations aimed at incentivising private sector interest and partnership in transport and logistics relative to the agri-food systems agenda. 

He further outlined some options, including the formation of an all-purpose company, the floating of a regional bond, approaching the private sector window of the Caribbean Development Bank, approaching regional commercial institutions, international financial institutions (such as EXIM Bank), Expression of Interest for financing, managing and operating a facility for regional transportation and logistics. Meanwhile, work will continue to explore incentive regime to attach investment.

Prime Minister Mia Mottley thanked the President for the speed in which he moved on the Food Production and Food Security Taskforce and urged all Member States to reinforce the issue of food security.

Other matters discussed included: implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), Update on the Comprehensive Review of the Common External Tariff (CET) and Community Rules of Origin, Supportive Macro-Economic Policy Environment, Implications of the CCJ Advisory Opinion to the opt Out Provisions of The Revised Treaty, Protocol to Amend the Revised Treaty to Allow Enhanced Cooperation Among Member States.

The delegation included Ministers of Agriculture, Legal Affairs, and Foreign Affairs, along with the Foreign Secretary and Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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