Statement by the Hon. Roger Clarke, Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Jamaica at the T-STAR Symposium on Invasive Species, 11 July 2006, San Juan, Puerto Rico

 
Mr. Chairman, it is indeed a pleasure to address you on the Jagdeo Initiative and how the Caribbean Invasive Species Initiative fits into it. However, before getting to the topic, I would like to thank the University of Florida for taking a dominant role, as part of the Working Group, in the conceptualization of this initiative, the subsequent development of a strategy (crisis) and now the development and implementation of programmes and projects within that strategy. You have been particularly instrumental in the maintenance of public interest in this initiative.

I also wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the board of directors of the Caribbean Food Crops Society (CFCS) for agreeing to have this symposium as part of its programme for the 4th consecutive year. Indeed, the CFCS meeting has now established itself, along with the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, as the two major public events promoting agriculture in the wider Caribbean. However, I would wish to recommend to the Board of CFCS, that it takes a leaf out of the book of the invasive species working group and develops conclusions and recommendations from its deliberations. These conclusions and recommendations can then be submitted to the alliance and/or the COTED to obtain appropriate political and wider stakeholder acceptance ratification and buy in. In this way, you would move from the purely academic and/or scientific initiative to one that contributes in a very direct and tangible way to the repositioning of agriculture in the Region within the context of the Jagdeo initiative.

This brings me back to my topic, the Jagdeo initiative. The initiative began in late 2002 when President Jagdeo of Guyana, as Lead Head responsible for Agriculture in CARICOM, asked the Directors General of FAO and IICA to assist him in repositioning Agriculture in the Region. The regional Directors of these two institutions then consulted with the CARICOM Secretariat on the management of this request. This was followed in June 2003 by a presentation of IICA to Ministers of Agriculture on the situation and outlook for Agriculture in the Region, which detailed the challenges facing the sector and identified the characteristics for a “new” Agriculture. These were endorsed by the ministers and subsequently, the first proposal outlining the initiative’s vision, scope and focus and the process for its development was presented by President Jagdeo to the Conference of Heads of Government (Heads) in July 2004 which endorsed it.

From the onset, it was determined that the Jagdeo Initiative must be a very practical instrument that would operationalise the Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture (RTP) or its successor, the Community Agricultural Policy. Consequently, it must be influenced by some critical elements:

  1. Agriculture is a business;
  2. Agriculture is holistic, spanning the entire Agri-product chain (from production of inputs to the sale of the final product) and with organic links to other productive sectors;
  3. The increasing importance of value-added food products, e.g. ready to eat, smart packaging, etc., and non-food products, e.g. fuel, herbal, medicines, handicraft, sod grass, must be recognized;
  4. Emphasis is to be on national activities with sub-regional and regional activities only included when they add value to national initiatives;
  5. The initiative must build on existing actions to reduce duplication;
  6. The initiative must be the Caribbean’s response to the mandates that the countries have signed on to. The most important of these are: The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and World Food Summit (WFS) at the global level; the agro plan, 2003-2015, at the hemispheric level; and the community agricultural policy.

I would like to briefly look at the MDGs and the agro plan 2003/2015 to demonstrate the multi-functionality of agriculture. As you are aware, the MDGs are “the most broadly supported, comprehensive and specific poverty reduction targets that the world has ever established”. There are eight goals, dealing with:

  1. Extreme poverty and hunger (50% reduction by 2015);
  2. Universal primary education;
  3. General equality;
  4. Reduce Child Mortality;
  5. Maternal mortality;
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, etc.;
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability;
  8. Establishment of a global partnership for development.

Goals (i), (iii) and (vii) are usually associated with agriculture. However, is there not a very close link between:

  1. Agricultural/rural poverty and universal primary education;
  2. Agriculture/nutrition and child mortality and national mortality; and
  3. Agriculture an global partnerships as evidenced by the impact of the WTO?

Therefore, agriculture has a very major role to play in countries meeting the targets within the MDGs.

The Agro Plan 2003-2015, adopted by hemispheric ministers of agriculture and ratified by hemispheric heads, established a conceptual framework that “guides and informs domestic policy strategies aimed at agricultural restructuring, diversification, promotion of competitive clusters and increasing incomes in the sector”. This conceptual framework allows for the management of interventions that will promote the achievement of critical strategic objectives of competitiveness, sustainability, equity, governance, rural prosperity, food security and international positioning, that will facilitate achievement of the sustainable development of agriculture and rural life.

The community agricultural policy, which is enshrined in the 2001 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, articulates the Region’s agricultural/agribusiness policy goals (Articles 56) and the Strategic Framework for Policy Implementation (Article 57).

These mandates recognised, develop and establish the significant importance of agriculture in sustainable development in the Caribbean and provide the frame within which it (agriculture) must be repositioned.

Consequently, the Heads in 2004 agreed that the initiative would have the following vision “by 2015, agriculture will have made substantial progress in its contribution to sustainable growth, within a framework of transparent institutions and good governance that enables the transformation of its products and processes, encourages investments, drives entrepreneurship and assures an acceptable and consistent level of food security.”

The Heads also agreed that the initiatives’ scope will be “to define and implement interventions to address (3-4) key binding constraints to the CARICOM agri-product sector within the context of:

  • The policy framework of the RTP/Community agricultural policy;
  • Existing and planned complementary initiatives undertaken by national, regional and international organizations;
  • Emphasis on non-tradition products, value added and intensification of diversification; and
  • Practical programmes with achievable targets.

Let me turn briefly to the process for the determination of the key binding constraints and the identification of possible interventions to address same. The process was bottom up, emphasising Member States, and within Member States involving active stakeholders in the agricultural and rural sectors. To enable synergy and commonality of methodology and procedures, key personnel from all CARIFORUM countries attended a briefing/training session before the conduct of the national consultations. The results of the national consultations were collated and ten (not 3-4) key binding constraints are some possible interventions were agreed upon at a regional meeting. These constraints are interventions were validated by a cross section of regional agri-entrepreneurs, endorsed by Ministers of Agriculture and subsequently agreed to by Heads in 2005.

I would like to emphasise the all inclusive, participatory nature of the process and the involvement of head at all steps of this process. This involvement by heads has been deliberate, for what agriculture’s multi-functionality (described earlier) the repositioning of agriculture is not solely a Minister of Agriculture responsibility. It is a cabinet responsibility led by the Prime Minster or President.

Subsequently, in 2005/2006 an inventory of the interventions being undertaken and/or planned in each country was developed. This has been supplemented by an exercise commissioned by the FAO to develop “bankable” profiles for each country.

The ten key binding constraints identified are neither new nor exhaustive. However, the Jagdeo Initiative seeks to “address these constraints in a manner which embodies the entire CARIFORUM Agri-Food/Agri-Product system in a comprehensive and holistic manner geared towards creating an enabling economic and business environment for competitiveness and sustainability”.

The ten key binding constraints are:

  1. Limited financing and inadequate levels of new investments.
  2. Outdated and inefficient Agricultural Health and Food Safety (AHFS) systems.
  3. Inadequate research and development.
  4. A fragmented and disorganized private sector.
  5. Weak land and water distribution and management systems.
  6. Deficient and uncoordinated Risk Management Measures.
  7. Inadequate transportation systems, particularly for perishables.
  8. 8. Weak and non-integrated information and intelligence systems.
  9. Inadequate marketing arrangement.
  10. Lack of skilled and quality human resources.

These are included in Annex 1 along with the corresponding list of possible interventions. I am advised that the organizers of this symposium will be publishing a proceeding so my address will be available to you. However, please note that agricultural Health and Food Safety is identified as a key binding constraints and there, this invasive species initiative once implemented in the timely and practical fashion is seen as a major intervention to alleviate this constraint. The surveillance and other systems that must be developed would be most critical and useful.

I had referred to an inventory of initiatives and the conceptual framework of Agro Plan 2003-2015 that “guides and informs domestic policy strategies that will facilitate sustainable agriculture and rural life. It would be noted in Annex 2 that the interventions of Member States are mainly within the economic (production and trade) dimension and the value chain (category) suggesting that more emphasis has been placed on competitiveness and food safety.

This is understandable taking into consideration the pressures that countries have been encountering with adjusting to the “new” trading agreements – WTO, EU-EPA, etc. The increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters and the potential threats of terrorism and other forms of man made disasters. However, this must be treated as the first phase in the process towards achieving the development of sustainable agricultural and rural sectors that could significantly contribute to the economic fabric of the CARICOM Single Market and the Economy.

Let me turn briefly to the management of the implementation of the Jagdeo Initiative. As you would have recognised the ultimate repositioning is the Heads with delegated responsibility to President Jagdeo. The next tier is represented by the Ministers of Agriculture, collectively, as COTED, and as Members of the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Agriculture and the rural milieu in the wider Caribbean, and individually with responsibility for the monitoring of the progress in addressing a particular key binding constraint. In his or her individual responsibility, the Minister is aided by a key Regional institution. Kindly refer to Annex 1 for example, with support from CARDI, I have responsibility for over seeing the alleviation of the two key binding constraints linked to marketing and information systems.

To further support the Ministers in their collective capacity, Heads have appointed a core group, including Regional institutions, such as, CARDI, CDB, CRNM, FAO, and co-chaired by the CARICOM Secretariat and IICA. This core group is currently reviewing its composition and structure to include major stakeholders, specifically but not exclusively the private sector. It is also developing its Terms of Reference to enable it to serve as a monitoring mechanism for ensuring that the scope and synergy of the programmes of work for Regional institutions would facilitate implementation of the Jagdeo initiative. This would be subject to approval of Ministers and Heads.

In conclusion, let me say that the Jagdeo Initiative is not a perfect instrument. The documentation describing it is not scholarly in character, even though one may expect scholarly and academic dissertations to be developed around and during its implementation. Rather it is evolving, a work in progress, a “kick start”.

However, it provides a vision and a framework within which all – governments, institutions, civil society – can set and establish their programmes and, most importantly, within their existing budgets. It provides a benchmark from which progress could be measured. However, it requires financial and human resources to drive its implementation at an acceptable rate and in a focused fashion. It also needs total public support. To facilitate this, there are some important initiatives ongoing and/or planned for the immediate future viz:

  1. The completion of a food needs study for the Region which would indicate potential investment opportunities;
  2. An investment/donors conference involving traditional and non-traditional development and commercial financial institutions and the complete spectrum of regional Agri-entrepreneurs;
  3. The establishment of a monitoring and evaluation information system to effectively determine progress; and
  4. The annual Caribbean Week of Agriculture which this year will be in the Bahamas.

The continued support of the Caribbean Invasive Species Working Group is expected and demanded in the implementation of the Jagdeo Initiative. This support is specific but not confined to the Agricultural Health and Food Safety Constraint. For example, I know that some of you are from academia and therefore you can play an important role in addressing the constraint of limited human capacity. We count on your total support.

Finally, I am aware of the difficulties facing the Agriculture sector in the Region, be they pests; diseases; natural disasters etc.

Thank you.

Annex 1

Key Binding Constraint

Lead Minister/Agency

Possible Intervention

Limited Financing and Inadequate Levels of New Investments

Barbados/CDB

Establish Regional Agricultural Modernization Fund

 

Outdated and Inefficient Agricultural Health and Food Safety (AHFS) Systems

Trinidad and Tobago/ CARICOM Secretariat

Establish Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA)

 

Inadequate Research and Development

Guyana/CARDI

Define and implement a regional Research and Development Policy and Action Plan

 

A Fragmented and Disorganised Private Sector

St. Vincent and the Grenadines/CABA

Strengthen private sector organizations and collaboration

 

Weak Land and Water Distribution and Management Systems

Saint. Lucia/FAO

Establish a system of incentives for improved land and water use

 

Deficient and Uncoordinated Risk Management Measures

Antigua and Barbuda/IICA

Develop integrated regional risk mitigation (natural disasters) and relief (incl. agricultural insurance)

 

Inadequate Transportation Systems, particularly for Perishables

St. Kitts and Nevis/ CARICOM Secretariat

Determine freight needs, upgrade ports and consolidate services.

 

Weak and Non-integrated Information and Intelligence Systems

Jamaica/CARDI

Integrate and modernize industry and national information system and services

 

Inadequate marketing Arrangement

Jamaica/CARDI

Strengthen Joint Marketing Opportunities and facilitate access to EXIM-type financing

 

Lack of Skilled and Quality Human Resources

Dominica/UWI

Upgrade and integrate curriculum and training at all levels. 

 
 
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