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Remarks by Dr Carla N. Barnett, Secretary-General CARICOM/CARIFORUM, at the Launch of the EU-CARIFORUM Food Security Programme, CARICOM Secretariat, Guyana, 23 November 2023

  • Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana;
  • Ms. Myriam Ferran, Deputy Director General for International Partnerships, and Other Representatives of the European Commission;
  • Your Excellency Malgorzata Wasilewska, Head of Delegation of the European Union to Barbados, CARICOM/ CARIFORUM, and the OECS;
  • Mr. Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary General, Economic Integration, Innovation and Development, and Other Staff of the CARICOM Secretariat;
  • Other Distinguished Guests;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am pleased to welcome you to the Secretariat for the launch of this EU-CARIFORUM Food Security Programme.   

The current global food crisis has been years in the making.Rising acute food insecurity and increasing food prices indicate that the resilience of food systems has been eroding around the world. The impact of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, high energy prices and supply chain disruptions have served to increase food insecurity, particularly for the most vulnerable people and countries.

The UN Global Crisis Response Group warned that global food accessibility issues risk being compounded by global food availability issues. Caribbean countries are particularly at risk. Most of our countries are importers of food; there is high dependence on food imports and there are common food security challenges, such as access to financing, high trade costs and climate change. These challenges to food systems, and to food and nutrition security in the Caribbean have been increasing significant in recent times.  And, I emphasize nutrition security because imported food is largely preserved with high percentages of salt, sugar and fats which all contribute to the crisis of non-communicable diseases in our Region.

Food security is now one of the highest priorities for the Caribbean region.   At the level of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Region’s strategy includes the development of an Agriculture Disaster Recovery Plan, the goal of 25% reduction in CARICOM’s food import bill by 2025, and promoting cross-border investments in agricultural production, agro-processing, transportation and logistics. Estimates indicate that at least US$4 billion in new investments may be required to achieve 25% by 2025.

The Region, therefore, welcomes the decision of the European Union (EU) to mobilise EUR 600 million from the reserves of the European Development Fund (EDF) as support for the Member States of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), to mitigate the effects of the food crisis. We also welcome the decision to ringfence approximately EUR 27 million to support CARIFORUM States.

The Programme is expected to contribute to several critical outputs including, supporting research and investments in food production solutions, strengthening selected agriculture and fisheries value-chains at local and regional levels, and improving food processing capabilities to increase regional food distribution.

Implementation of CARICOM’s 25 by 2025 initiative requires commitment by all and access to the resources which will remove barriers to the new technologies required for food production.  The Region has the human and land resources, and commendable progress has already been made towards achieving the objectives of the 25 by 2025 initiative under the leadership of His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and Lead Head in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security. The Agriculture Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat and CARIFORUM have worked together, and with our regional and international partners, to shape this Programme. I commend them all for their efforts.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

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