Guyana pledges US$2M to support Caricom food security initiatives

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Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
President Dr Irfaan Ali accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd engaging officials from the FAO on Thursday in the Bahamas

President Dr Irfaan Ali, who is leading the Caribbean Community’s (Caricom) food production and food security programme, has pledged some US$2 million in support towards the initiative.

This was announced by Chairman of Caricom, Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Phillip Davis, during a press conference on Friday evening to brief regional media on the outcome of the just concluded 44th Regular Meeting of the Heads of Government Conference held in Nassau this week.

According to PM Davis, President Ali submitted a project proposal to his regional colleagues titled – “Building Food Security Through Innovation, Resilience, Sustainability and Empowerment” – to guide the Caribbean’s efforts towards food production and food security.

The Chairman noted that the Caricom Heads of Government “…accepted [President Ali’s] Government’s pledge of $2 million towards financing and implementing this project.”The Bahamian PM added that this proposal includes the expanse of hydroponics farming in the Region. In fact, this type of farming is expected to be used as a project plan to access funds that were pledged by the United States Government to support the Caribbean’s food security efforts.

(L-R) Chairman of Caricom Prime Minister of the Bahamas Phillip Davis, Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley at Friday evening’s press conference

Back in September 2022, President Ali had disclosed that the US Government is providing the Caribbean with US$28 million in assistance to address urgent food security needs of the Region. He had stated that the funds will be available immediately for short-term activities to support the increase in regional food production and agricultural activities in the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, who was also that the press conference, added that the Region’s aim to reduce its food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 is a work in progress.

“Good progress is being made. [We’re] not yet there but we hope that our voices can continue to encourage Caribbean people that claiming food security by ensuring that we play our part is absolutely vital for us going forward in this world,” she contended.

In addition to the funding from the US Government, PM Mottley also stated that President Ali updated regional heads on the other mechanisms in place to support this food security agenda. This includes the US$100 million financing package that the Guyanese Head of State had secured from a regional bank to assist Caribbean countries and organisations in boosting food production activities.

Moreover, during the 44th Regular Meeting, the Caricom Heads were also updated on the progress made by the Caricom Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security, and endorsed its priority activities for 2023.

“The Task Force has been focusing and addressing its efforts on several thematic areas which are deemed to have retarded regional agricultural growth including the removal of non-tariff barriers to regional trade in agricultural produce, de-risking of the sector, digital agriculture, research and development, and review of the CET (Common External Tariff),” PM Davis stated.

President Ali travelled to the Bahamas on Wednesday to attend the Caricom Heads of Government Meeting, which was held from February 15 to 17. On the sidelines of the conference, the Guyanese leader had several engagements with his regional counterparts as well as with officials from international organisations who were also there.

In fact, on Thursday, President Ali met with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Mario Lubetkin, and his delegation.

Their discussions centred on plans leading up to Guyana’s hosting of the FAO Conference in 2024, and how the organisation and Guyana can collaborate to have meaningful deliverables toward a more resilient and sustainable food-secure Region.

The Guyanese Head of State and the FAO representatives also spoke about several other areas including food security and parallel works being done by various agencies and platforms.

Only last week, President Ali had declared that Caricom Member States have collectively achieved a significant 57 per cent of the target set to realise “Vision 25 by 2025”. This was announced during the first Caricom Ministerial Task Force (MTF) on Food Production and Food Security meeting for 2023.

A statement from Guyana’s Agriculture Ministry stated that countries submitted reports detailing their production data for 2022 for targeted commodities. It was reported that products such as cocoa, dairy, meat, root crops, fruits, and poultry have already reached 96.13 per cent, 84.36 per cent, 72.28 per cent, 70.91 per cent, 70.77 per cent and 70.19 per cent, respectively, for the targeted production volume set for 2025.

Moreover, countries such as Guyana, Belize, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Dominica, and Jamaica have made significant advances in the production of commodities such as ginger, turmeric, corn, soya bean, root crops, fruits, cocoa, poultry, meat, fish, table eggs, and dairy.

The report also indicated that for 2022, Guyana produced some 20,195 metric tonnes of ginger and turmeric, 144,289 metric tonnes of root crops, 21,870 metric tonnes of fish, and 40,749 metric tonnes of coconut.

In 2021, President Dr Irfaan Ali had declared that his Government would be pursuing an aggressive campaign to dismantle regional barriers to agricultural trade and, with the assistance of more diversified crops, Guyana would aim to reduce Caricom’s food import bill by 25 per cent.

Since then, efforts have taken off within the Region through collaboration with various countries to make this a reality.

As of last year, the Caribbean carried a weighty food import bill of US$6 billion per annum. Inflated food costs among other factors had created a sense of dependence in the Region.