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Remarks by CARICOM Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett at the Meeting of Ministers of Agriculture of the Andean Community (CAN) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) being held during the Thirty-Seventh Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean

  • Distinguished Chair;
  • Honourable Ministers;
  • Delegates;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am pleased to deliver remarks at this Meeting of Ministers of Agriculture of the Andean Community (CAN) and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which takes place within the framework of the 37th Session of the Food and Agriculture Organization Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean (LARC37).  The Conference theme addresses issues which are critical to the transformation of agri-food systems in CARICOM focusing on “better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”.  We look forward to the shared experiences that this Meeting allows, which will benefit the Region as a whole and will strengthen the resilience of our agriculture sectors.

We continue to live in challenging times. No sooner has one global crisis started to show some glimmer of abating, another confronts us, one that has major implications for peaceful coexistence and for our economic well-being. The Caribbean Community is forthright and consistent in its support for the principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity respect for human rights and peaceful settlement of differences. Indeed, CARICOM is committed to a rules-based international order, which can guarantee that the interests of all members of the global community are satisfied without recourse to military conflict. As small and vulnerable developing countries, the Members of the Caribbean Community are among the first to suffer from a breakdown in international relations.

The FAO has recently pointed out, that the fallout from the war in Ukraine could expose the markets for several key agricultural commodities to increased vulnerability to shocks and volatility, bringing with it increased food insecurity among millions of people worldwide. It is, therefore, appropriate that an Item has been placed on the Agenda which addresses increasing food prices and agricultural import prices, which will collectively affect our populations.

Already we are among those who are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including sea level rise and extreme weather events. Climate change is the single most deleterious threat facing the Region’s agricultural sector. The high incidence of crop failure due to the effects of climate change undermines the sustainability of the agriculture sector, and presents a clear and present danger to the Region’s food and nutrition security. Already, its effects are being felt across our Region.

Implementation of climate-smart agricultural solutions is a top priority for CARICOM, requiring improvements in production methods, crop varieties, and investment in human resources as well as technology. This will be critical for the survival of the agricultural sector and the accompanying linkages to other important sectors.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact generally on our economies and societies. Despite major mitigating efforts of our governments, large segments of our populations experienced significant reductions in their incomes and food security, as domestic supplies and employment opportunities were disrupted. Our experience with the pandemic reinforced our Community’s resolve to shore up and reinforce our food systems with the objective of achieving greater resilience.

At the Thirty-Second Inter-Sessional Meeting in February 2021, CARICOM Heads of Government adopted a Regional Agri-Food System Strategy, which, among other things, entails strategic partnerships with the regional private sector to promote investment in the sector and facilitation of agricultural trade within CARICOM.

But, we will not be able to achieve our objectives without the continued active support of FAO, and a range of regional and global partners. FAO has proven to be a reliable partner in our agricultural development endeavours at both the national and regional levels, by providing technical and logistical support to our governments and Community organizations, and tailoring such support in a way that assists us in meeting the objectives of improved rural incomes, enhanced the technical and scientific basis for our production, and the better integration of women and youth into the sector.

Chair and distinguished Minsters, it is clear that the high level of representation and participation from CARICOM indicates the seriousness with which we are approaching the enhancement (or is it sustainability) of the agriculture sector. Our wish is that the FAO will be further strengthened to continue its valuable work, and that this 37th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean will be a resounding success.

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