(CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Her Excellency Dr. Carla Barnett says that the proposals put forward for transformation of the Region’s agri-food system by the CARICOM Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security (MTF), are worthy of consideration.
Speaking to the Conference of Heads of Government on Tuesday, 1 March, the Secretary-General highlighted synergies between the Task Force and the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation’s (CPSO) to ultimately reduce regional food importation by 25% by 2025.
The 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government has been taking place in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize. Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon John Briceno, Chair of CARICOM, is presiding over the meeting which will conclude, later today, 2 March.
The President of Guyana, His Excellency Dr Irfaan Ali, Lead Head of Government in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet on Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security, presented the report of the Task Force to the Conference on 1 March. Among the initiatives he proposed was a special funding line of up to $20B (US$100M) in financing for the development of the agriculture sector. The Trinidad-based Republic Bank will be offering this facility.
The Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security, in collaboration with the CPSO, identified several priority commodities around which policies for import replacement are expected to be centred. These include poultry meat, corn, soybeans and rice for feed production, meat (beef, pork and mutton), niche vegetables and coconut products.
The CARICOM Secretary-General told the Conference that it was also an opportune time to act upon the proposals for joint marketing of the Region’s tourism product, as the Region’s source markets begin to recover from the pandemic, and as the Caribbean remains a preferred destination.
She also touched on issues pertaining to the Community’s thrust towards a single ICT space, the need for continued advocacy for concessional development financing, and ongoing efforts to restructure the CARICOM Secretariat.
On the ICT front, Dr. Barnett said CARICOM “can no longer delay” the implementation of the Regional Digital Development Strategy, noting that “the application of technology is what will underpin all of our development efforts.”
To drive that development, she said the Community must have the support of its international partners, and in this context, she added that it will continue to advocate for the use of a Multi-Dimensional Vulnerability Index, as the main criterion for accessing concessional development financing.
As the restructuring and retooling of the CARICOM Secretariat progress towards greater focus and efficiency, the Secretary-General said Directorates have been re-engineered with emphasis on cross-sector collaboration and team-work.
“A culture change, with accountability being paramount, will contribute to more effective service delivery to the governments and people of our Community,” Dr. Barnett told the Conference.