(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown,
Guyana) Calls for concerted efforts to reduce the
total food import bill in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)
resonated at the Validation Workshop for the Draft
CARICOM Regional Policy for Food and Nutrition
Security, which opened in Georgetown, Guyana on
September 28, 2010.
The Workshop, coordinated by the CARICOM
Secretariat in collaboration with the Food and
Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations
with funding from the Government of Italy and the
European Union is being held to determine whether
the draft policy takes into consideration all the
components that should be included in a regional
framework for food and nutrition security.
Specialists in the field of agriculture, trade,
health, nutrition, and representatives of regional
institutions including Caribbean Agricultural
Research Development Institute (CARDI) and the
University of the West Indies (UWI), and
international partners are gathered at Princess
Hotel, Providence, East Bank Demerara, for the
workshop over the next two days.
At the opening ceremony, Ambassador Irwin
LaRocque, Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and
Economic Integration at the CARICOM Secretariat, and
the Honourable Robert Persaud, Minister of
Agriculture, Guyana both sounded concerns about
Region’s reliance on food imports.
“Our continued reliance on food imports, instead
of reducing has actually been increasing,” Minister
Providing statistics to substantiate his
statement, he said, twenty years ago, Caribbean
nations accounted for more than two percent of the
world’s agricultural trade, but that share had
declined to less than 0.3 percent today.
“Our net agriculture trade was surplus then –
standing at around 3 billion US dollars. Today we
are in a deficit, paying over USD$ 3.5 Billion
annually to import our food,” he lamented.
Even more noteworthy, Minister Persaud stated,
was that shifting trade patterns had not aided the
Region economically, but had exacerbated economic
inequalities and increased poverty and contributed
to security challenges in the Community.
“This strategy must work towards removing
barriers that our Region now faces in international
trade and taking into account socio-economic
impacts,” he stated.
Ambassador LaRocque said the Region had found
itself at a point where access to safe and
nutritious food was plagued by the rising cost of
food and agriculture inputs; the displacement of
small domestic farmers by cheaper food imports which
were not necessarily healthy foods; the
macroeconomic costs from the growing food import
bill; the sharp downturn in remittances and the
increased health costs of treating chronic diseases
associated with nutritionally poor diets.
“This critical situation that we are now facing
raises the question: How did we get here?”
Ambassador LaRocque said.
Quoting from the President of Guyana, His
Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo’s statement at the World
Food Summit in Roma in 2009, Ambassador LaRocque
said, “the Region was seduced by the importation of
cheap food and paid less attention to food
This situation can be reversed, he posited,
through increased regional content in food
consumption, increased use of local inputs feeds and
fertilizers, and increased productivity of land,
labour and capital in the agricultural sector.
He added that reduced reliance on foreign food
also hinged on the development of agriculture
industries, buttressed by increased private sector
investments and regional production.
Efforts must be made to influence the taste and
preference of households to consume nutritionally
balanced foods as a means of safeguarding against
chronic non-communicable diseases which were
prevalent in the Region, Ambassador LaRocque stated.
In response to soaring expenditure on food
imports, he said that CARICOM Heads of Government in
2009 adopted the Liliendaal Declaration in which
they acknowledged that inadequate resources for
agricultural development was a major impediment to
dealing with the constraints on the development of
the Region’s domestic food industry.
“The Heads of Government recognised that the
challenges we face in ensuring our food and
nutrition security are multi-dimensional and require
an urgent and coherent response in a wide range of
sectors, namely, food production, trade, health,
education and social welfare,” Ambassador LaRocque
Against this backdrop, he said that the Regional
Policy for Food and Nutrition Security would give
effect to the Liliendaal Declaration which makes the
commitment to “pursue a strategic approach to
transforming the agriculture sector into an
internationally competitive sector with increased
capacity to contribute to the sustained economic
development of the Region, the economic livelihood
of entrepreneurs, the rural sector and to food and