Rowley on regional food security: Time to get serious

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Rowley. File photo/Jeff K Mayers

The Prime Minister has said that TT together with Guyana will be taking steps towards strengthening self-sufficiency on regional food supplies noting that it was “time to get serious.”

Dr Rowley made the remarks while speaking with reporters during a media conference at the VIP Lounge of the Piarco International Airport after returning to TT from Guyana on Sunday afternoon.

Rowley visited Guyana to attend a three-day Agri-Investment Forum and Expo to discuss improving supply channels for food supplies and other trade issues.

He said a major focus of the visit was to establish networks to improve regional self-sufficiency on food products through Guyana and Brazil.

Referring to a recent article in the Economist which highlighted concerns of food shortages and global supply issues, Rowley said it was necessary to consider Guyana as a major partner.

He said while more work must be done among all stakeholders to improve the logistics between countries, he was optimistic that the arrangement would be beneficial to TT and the region.

“What we have been doing is looking for our food supply far away around the world when in fact there are possibilities to find a food supply next door with our effort significant aspects of our investment and our transportation but there are some missing links we need to put in place to ensure our food supply comes from the closest, most affordable and most sustainable arrangements.

“Currently we import a lot of our meat from Australia and New Zealand, Europe and the US very little from next door.

“If those things are done as they should be done then Caricom will begin to insulate itself from the ups and downs and shortages that take place and will continue to take place.”

Rowley also said that such a large-scale shift in suppliers would require significant investment from all involved and announced that a committee led by TT and Guyana will help guide policy-making for the programme.

This committee will meet in Trinidad in mid-August.

He also noted that this new initiative may encounter some resistance from countries outside of the region and called on all stakeholders to take the necessary steps to work together to build resilience.

“If we continue looking for our supplies outside as we are doing now thousands of miles away from people who have no obligations to us then when the trouble arises they leaving us out.

“If on the other hand we change our business model and make some investments in our Caricom potential in this Guyana then it will improve food security.

“I also mentioned that this is not going to be easy because the status quo will be likely wanting to resist it and if you resist it and maintain the status quo what you are maintaining is the instability in supply and prices.”

Responding to concerns raised by the Guyana Chamber of Commerce over tariff barriers within Caricom, Rowley said it was the responsibility of governments to facilitate trade as best as they could.