On Saturday, the Washington-based Institute for Caribbean Studies (ICS) said policy makers, business leaders, academic and agricultural experts from across the Caribbean and the United States “walked away with positive action items and plans for agricultural sector development” following the two-day, high level “Invest Caribbean Agribusiness Forum (ICAF)” on Capitol Hill.
“The event went beyond the usual ‘talk shop to formulate strategies and plans for actions to turn idle hands and idle lands into real, profitable and sustainable opportunities for the Caribbean,” said Jamaican-born Dr. Clare Nelson, ICS president, who co-sponsored the event.
“The forum took note of the fact that agricultural capacity in the Caribbean is a ‘nature given asset,’ which remains relatively underdeveloped, but which holds the key to solve much of the Caribbean’s economic and social woes,” she added.
“That is closing food and job deficits, meeting economic inclusion goals and creating opportunities for sustainable self-sufficiency, which will become more relevant in the approaching era of reduced migration opportunities.
“The participants further molded a vision of the future of agriculture that goes beyond traditional small farmers growing peppers and coffee and cocoa and sugar for export to the notion of creating efficient value chains that benefit from current and future agriculture production market needs and opportunities,” Nelson continued. “Representatives of industry associations from the US signaled the fact that the markets are in need of prescribed quality production of everything the Caribbean can grow.”
She said the 18th Annual Caribbean American Leadership Roundtable Forum – sponsored by ICS, in partnership with the Office of Caribbean American Congresswoman Yvette Clark, and the Office of the Executive Director for the Caribbean at the Inter-American Development Bank – was “intentional about the goal of forging real actionable measures for agriculture development in the Caribbean, job creation, energy and environment, new market opportunities and financing innovation.”
Representatives from the Caribbean included Caribbean ambassadors; CARDI; GoInvest (of Guyana); JAMPRO (of Jamaica); and other major food production organization and entities doing innovative business in the Caribbean.
In addition to high level attendance of members of the US Congress – Clarke and her congressional colleagues, Stacey Plaskett and Maxine Waters – Nelson said there were senior level representatives of US government agencies, such as US Trade Representative Office, US Department of State and US Department of Agriculture.
“Agriculture and food production is a most promising economic frontier for boosting Caribbean economies, harnessing wealth, creating sustainable jobs, improving the environment and more,” said Oscar Spencer, ICS vice president during opening remarks on Thursday.
Nelson said industry speakers at the forum highlighted the potential realization of billions of dollars in economic growth and job creation via agriculture future-focused beyond traditional food exports to fiber and textiles, essential oils and natural products, biofuels, organic produce markets domestically and globally, agro-forestry, building products and materials (houses and furniture), among others.
She said delegates addressed the challenge of finding investment partners to activate overlooked opportunities throughout the Caribbean, and implement projects that re-engage people in agriculture, align more closely with US and other export markets, increase agro-processing, and promote the products of the Caribbean as select brands.
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