- Your Excellency Dr. Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana;
- Honourable Minsters;
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is my pleasure to join in the Launch of this CARICOM Agri-Investment Forum and Expo which will take place on 19-21 May. This event is an important step on the path to achieving the clear objective set by the Heads of Government of “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025”, with the aim of promoting and improving the productivity and resilience of the Region’s agri-food systems.
The decision of our Heads of Government is a clear recognition that, despite our challenges, the CARICOM agri-food sector, which accounts for more than 20% of our employment, represents a clear opportunity for increased investment in primary production, agro-processing, marketing, e-commerce and innovative technologies, to name a few. It is also a clear recognition that the cost of inaction is just too high. There is no better time than now to do what is needed to better withstand future crises as a region, whether those be disasters or supply chain bottlenecks. The Agri-food and nutrition plan represents CARICOM giving real meaning to Vision 25 by 2025 by taking action to build back better post-COVID.
Heads of Government have placed the highest priority on enhancing our food security and nutrition. As CARICOM’s Lead Head of Government for Agriculture and Food Security, His Excellency President Ali has been tirelessly leading this issue.
He has championed the thrust towards the revitalization of our agricultural sector and has put in place the mechanisms to drive the process. He has, therefore, helped the Region to send out the clear message that we are serious about the development of the agricultural sector and, by extension, our food and nutrition security.
Agriculture remains a major pillar of CARICOM Member States’ economies, and has the potential to contribute significantly to economic resilience and drive inclusive socio-economic development across our Region. We have a cadre of hard-working farmers, agro-processors and marketers, all of whom deserve our assistance in the delivery of technological, logistical and financial solutions aimed at raising their levels of competitiveness.
The achievement of a 25 percent reduction in our food import bill by 2025 targets the significantly increased production of some key products, such as poultry, corn and soya, fish, sheep and goats, and a range of fruit and vegetable products. Initiatives will also address several cross-cutting issues, such as the removal of various barriers to our internal CARICOM trade, mobilizing financing, developing insurance, market facilitation and transportation.
The Forum and Expo will bring together investors and other stakeholders who will share information on the specific opportunities that exist for enhanced commercial activity. It is therefore expected that, coming out of this engagement, there will be concrete investment opportunities that can be pursued and for which the necessary support can be provided.
I, therefore, wish to thank the Government of Guyana for offering to host this event, and for putting in place the resources, logistical arrangements and the planning necessary to bring the Forum and Expo to fruition in a relatively short time. The CARICOM Secretariat is partnering in this process and is providing assistance in supporting the execution of this very important event.
Similarly, I want to acknowledge the efforts of the regional groups, including those representing our farmers and other private sector actors, development partners, and other stakeholders for the commitment and dedication shown in collaborating to ensure that the Forum is a success.
The CARICOM Agri-Investment Forum and Expo will provide a perfect opportunity to strengthen the development of the Region’s Agri-Food Systems. It will set the solid foundation for the creation of a platform that will accelerate and further propel intra-regional trade and economic development.
The time for bold and decisive action is now. This is the clearest opportunity for the CARICOM Region to seize control, and chart its own destiny in food and nutrition security. We must get it right this time if we are to grow our agri-sector and develop our economies. Too often as a Region, we have not been able to take advantage of what is right in front of us and we will do that now.
I look forward to welcoming all stakeholders in our agri-food systems to the CARICOM Agri-Investment Forum and Expo at this venue next month.
Thank you very much President Ali.
Thanks everyone for being here today.