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Remarks by Chairman of CARICOM, Opening, Agri Investment Forum and Expo II, Trinidad and Tobago, 19 August 2022

  • Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago:
    The Honourable Doctor Keith Rowley,
  • Prime Minister of Barbados:
    The Honourable Mia Amor Mottley,
  • President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana:

His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali,

  • Secretary General of the CARICOM Secretariat:
    Doctor Carla Barnett,
  • Other Dignitaries,
  • Members of the press,
  • Ladies and Gentleman,
  • Good day to you all!
  • I am pleased, to join you, at this Agri-Investment Forum and Expo II hosted by Trinidad and Tobago.
  • The theme, and the focus of the event, are both timely and relevant.
  • It builds, on the very successful conference, hosted by Guyana, in May of this year.
  • It is intended, to further advance the objectives, as set out in the Regionโ€™s, 25 by 2025 Plan, led by President Irfaan Ali, CARICOMs Quasi Cabinet Lead, for Agriculture and Food Security.
  • The level of commitment, and seriousness, to food and nutrition security, is evidenced by the gathering, present here today, as is, the resolve of Prime Minister Rowley, in advancing our work in this area.
  • Much has been said already by previous speakers. I will focus, on emerging opportunities, and match bankable projects, with available public and private financing.
  • Agriculture, in the Region, is at a crossroads. While we recognize the challenges, we must focus on the opportunities.
  • The need for a complete transformation, and re-alignment of the Region’s food system, has never been so urgent.
  • This requires, us as a Region, to press the reset button, as it relates to:
  • agricultural finance,
    • rural infrastructural development,
    • climate-smart agriculture,
    • water management and use,
    • agri-technology,
    • cross-border investments,
    • fisheries development,
    • increase intra-regional trade, and
    • food security. 
  • Agriculture, is a major economic pillar, for our economies, and has the potential, to build economic resilience, and drive inclusive socio-economic development.
  • The Region, has prioritized the modernization, of its regional agriculture sector, as key driver, for economic growth and development.
  • This involves, expanding regional production, introducing new and appropriate technologies, investing in human capital development, as well as, research and development, and intensifying intra-regional trade, in agricultural commodities and produce.
  • Investments and financing, are vital, to the transformation of regional agriculture, and must be pursued, with tremendous and urgent enthusiasm.
  • We have set, for ourselves, some game-changing and

wide-reaching targets, which will contribute, to the overall transformation, and modernization of the Region’s agri-food systems.

  • This, has been embodied, in the vision, 25 percent by 2025, regional food bill reduction, program.
  • These targets, as set by the Heads of Government, cover and address several areas, including:
  • primary production,
    • import replacement,
    • manufacturing,
    • removal of all barriers to trade,
    • reduction of SPS-related blockages,
    • review and updating of the current structure of the regional CET,
    • agro-processing,
    • intra-regional trade,
    • digitalization, and
    • e-commerce.
  • The agribusiness sector, in the Caribbean, has immense potential, and presents opportunities, and significant advantages, for the:
  • expansion of intraregional trade,
    • foreign exchange earnings/savings,
    • public-private partnership,
    • innovation, and
    • technology advancement.
  • All of which, will contribute, to CARICOMโ€™s agri-food competitiveness.
  • The Regionโ€™s private sector, has a six billion US dollars import bill and a business opportunity as well.
  • Never before, has there been such a ready opportunity, for the creation of new agro-industries. To optimize these opportunities, we must build partnerships with the wider world, our own regional private sector and financial institutions.
  • The excess liquidity, throughout the Region, presents a golden opportunity, for investors in agriculture.
  • Member States, have agreed, to a priority list of commodities, including corn/soy production, poultry, table eggs, roots and tubers, meat, herbs and spices.
  • The Community, has commenced, the analytical work, and is now ready, to roll out these investments, with the private sector.
  • There are already successful outcomes, since we announced the initiative.
  • Member States, have formulated, agreed and are implementing their strategies, towards attaining the objectives and targets, as set out, for regional food and nutrition security, under the, 25 percent by 2025 plan.
  • We also must develop region wide information platforms to register food production and needs, so as our producers can align production and do business.
  • Over 24 shovel-ready projects, were presented different for a in Barbados and Guyana, to prospective investors, with an accumulative value, of over $150M.
  • The trajectory, has been positive, and it is important, that we maintain this commitment.
  • Our ever-increasing food import bill, concerns over the impact, of climate change, on the agriculture industry, and apprehension of another crisis or disaster event, severely affecting our food security, demands a collective response.  
  • The latest developments, have shown, that Suriname has not been spared, the consequences of climate change either.
  • Farmers, have suffered massive damage, as the recent floods, have destroyed crops and agricultural land.
  • It is important, to limit the risk of damage, to invest in new cultivation technologies, to guarantee food safety.
  • To meet the current trend, towards the demand of organic food, it is time for countries to facilitate, and enable their farmers, to invest in greenhouses.
  • Investing in greenhouses, has several advantages.
  • On the one hand, it protects the crops against climate influences, insect infestation and enables farmers, to deal efficiently, with scarce resources.
  • On the other hand, the technology used in the greenhouse, allows the farmer, to minimize the risk, and produce year-round.
  • My brothers and sisters in CARICOM, I invite you, to join us, in these serious times, in moving forward the 25 by 2025 plan.
  • I am pleased to note that international cooperation with many organizations worldwide, including USAID in follow up to the establishment of the Food Security Commission between de USA and Caricom, is taking place and that skills and capabilities are being developed.
  • And in order, to contribute and support this, Suriname will make land available for agriculture production, fostering partnerships between Surinamese and other Caribbean producers and processors.
  • Furthermore, Suriname has committed itself, to make 10 ha. of land available, for setting up an innovative campus, where students and startups, from the Region, will be facilitated, to conduct Research and Development studies.
  • Where government, and the business community, will invest in technological solutions, that:
  • improve resource efficiency,
    • increase resilience to climate change,
    • unlock new ways to drive growth,
    • realize operating efficiencies, and
    • mitigate risk.
  • This campus, should become an innovative hub, for the Region, where experts from the Region, will also be attracted, for knowledge sharing.
  • The future of the Region, depends on the youth of today and tomorrow, and your involvement and support is going to be critical for the sustainable development in our region.
  • I thank you and God bless you!
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