Over the past years there has been a significant decline in traditional exports to the European Union (EU) while our extra-regional food import bill is estimated at around $3.5 to $4 billion US dollars annually.
That’s according to Acting Prime Minister Ambrose George who was at the time addressing the opening ceremony of the Climate Change and Science and Technology workshop at the Arawak House of Culture on Sunday. It was the first official event to start off the 10th Caribbean Week of Agriculture being held on the island.
He said, essentially, “we are rapidly mortgaging our food sovereignty”.
However, he explained that without the successful implementation and operation of the CSME, “we will be unable to take advantage of economies of scale in the region, let alone to capitalize on the vast market access that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) affords Caribbean exporters. It seems to me that the major actors in implementing the CSME and to some extent the EPA have waxed cold.”
He said the EPA lays out lucidly the competitive forces at play in globally liberalized markets such as those of North America and the EU.
“This by itself is a clear indication of the kind of agriculture that is required as we plan ahead. It also gives us ideas about the rural economies and the vulnerabilities that we face,” George said.
According to him, therefore all these issues, including the millennium goals of 2015 and beyond, that “I have not touched on today, must be kept in full view during this week’s deliberations. And of course, this year’s Caribbean Week of Agriculture will only truly achieve its objectives if it builds on the gains and lessons learned of the past, and chart a course that will lead to building a robust Caribbean-wide Agriculture Sector in the context of changing global market conditions and the global phenomenon of climate change.”