Guyana scored the highest in consistency of supply of agriculture produce, excellent market locations and market hours, in a recent study that assessed market adequacy for fresh agriculture produce in Barbados, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The study was part of a broader Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action funded by the 10th European Development Fund, designed to enhance regional and interregional capabilities of the agricultural sectors, in eradicating poverty in the Caribbean and Pacific regions. It is also intended to increase the capability of Regional Agricultural Development Organizations in the Caribbean and Pacific regions, to address the development needs of smallholder agriculture. The coordinating agencies are the Caribbean Agriculture Research Development Institute (CARDI), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The CARICOM Secretariat is leading the development of agriculture policy and providing technical support to agencies and industry groups to strengthen regional mechanisms and platforms for coordinating implementation of regional policies and strategies, to address the constraints to agriculture development. It is also assisting Ministries of Agriculture to develop national and commodity-based agriculture policies and plans in alignment with regional policies.
CARDI is leading applied farm and food processing research and innovation that involves promoting and facilitating access of small producers to validated traditional knowledge, and innovative and climate responsive farming practices.
The critical elements related to enterprise development and market linkages are being led by IICA. This agency is working to strengthen the capacity of national and regional producer groups to engage with financial services providers for enterprise development. IICA is also coordinating the implementation of value-added processes, product development and market opportunities.
The study in which Guyana scored the highest was led by Agriculture Consultant, Dr. Lennox Sealy. He identified 20 key indicators of an ‘ideal’ fresh produce market that included an active group of wholesalers who purchase farmers goods in bulk quantities, convenient collection points, suitably located markets, an organised market information system, trading based on grades and standards, conveniently located packing and cooling facilities available for fresh produce, and physical conditions in the market that are conducive and safe.
With a maximum score of 100 for each country, Barbados scored 33.3 percent; Grenada, 33.8; Guyana, 44.0; St. Kitts and Nevis, 31.5; and Trinidad and Tobago, 24.5. Dr. Sealy’s report noted that with the result revealing an average of 30.5, it was evident that there are many opportunities for improvement in market adequacy for fresh produce in the Caribbean. A wide overview of the report showed that markets in Guyana are in the greatest needs of physical upgrade however the country scored the highest because of its consistency of supply, excellent market locations and market hours. Though Trinidad & Tobago has an active group of wholesalers that supply bulk quantities for the market, they scored the lowest because the reliability of the supply is not consistent.
The investigation found that one of the inherent difficulties in the current market system in the Region was insufficient packing, sorting and cooling facilities, critical in preserving the quality and standard of naturally perishable agricultural commodities. Each of these factors, the study found, can lead to “post-harvest food losses” which affect many things including the food supply, commodity prices and income for producers.
In this context, recommendations were put forward for the identification of all regional non-trade barriers; an assessment of each and the creation of a framework to eliminate identified barriers facing agricultural products. The study also recommended a harmonised approach to regional import procedures that facilitated movement of agricultural products within the Region; the building of national market facilities to avoid problems related to spontaneous markets; and the establishment of a regional registry for a CARICOM transportation corridor which includes basic data of cost, availability, reliability and protocols for importers, exporters, brokers, shipping agents, shipping lines, and aircraft operators.