Updated on Friday, March 4, 2022, 7:41 a.m. by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali recommended that the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Central American Integration System (SICA) work together to maximize food production in the region.
He also proposed a joint meeting between the Central American Agricultural Council and the CARICOM Agriculture Ministerial Working Group “so that we can marry priorities to establish a time-bound framework that is consistent with what CARICOM decided in the last two days”.
Addressing a joint meeting of the two blocs in Belize, he said efforts were already underway for SICA to participate in the upcoming Regional Agricultural Investment Conference scheduled for May 19-21.
While CARICOM has already decided to fully commercialize the agricultural sector and build competitiveness to meet the food and nutrition needs of the region, talks have already begun with Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica and Guatemala to support the CARICOM goal to increase food production by 25% by 2025.
Figures show that agriculture accounts for 25% of Guatemala’s gross domestic product (GDP) and that 50% of the workforce contributes sugar, coffee, bananas and cotton, and that Honduras employs 39% of the population in the production of plantains, rice and beans. He said Central America as a whole accounts for half of the region’s exports in agriculture and food production. “It tells us that the solution to food security and sustainability is in this room. What we need is commitment and a common approach to addressing food security in the region,” said Dr. Ali, Head of Agriculture in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet.
He told SICA leaders that their countries’ competitive advantage is “nearly identical” to those CARICOM has identified to boost production and competitiveness. “It is a handy fruit; very, very easy to grasp fruits in which we can bring real benefits, real results so that the people of our region (see) that we are no longer in a prolonged dialogue and conversation but here we are, as a region common we are ready to put in place an achievable timetable that we will embrace accountability to the people in achieving integration and food security,” he said.
Republic Bank, headquartered in Trinidad, has offered a $100 million line of credit to governments for on-lending to farmers. Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley is already expecting the Caribbean Private Sector Organization (CPSO) to offer additional resources at the Agricultural Investment Conference.
Meanwhile, President Ali and Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Falla have signed a memorandum of understanding for the Central American country to help Guyana revitalize the sugar industry, taking into account and recognizing the important role of the sector agriculture in achieving food security and economic development. Guatemala is a major sugar producer from which Guyana once imported the sweetener for domestic consumption at a lower price to enable Guyana to satisfy its export markets and earn vital foreign exchange. .