(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) “We can feed ourselves… if we manage the earth that God has given to us. We can feed ourselves and help some of the other countries with the excess and bring food cost down, bring the price down low because of mass production”, declared the Honourable Hilson Baptiste, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and the Environment, Antigua and Barbuda.
At the joint opening ceremony of four workshops – the first set of activities of the eleventh Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) – the Minister urged the Region’s populace to support and appreciate its farmers, trade more among Member States and eat what is grown in the Region.
“We are killing our farmers because we are not showing appreciation. We need to buy what we grow first, eat what we grow and strive to feed ourselves,” he said in an impassioned plea on Saturday at the Grand Royal Antiguan Beach Resort.
“I keep talking about the farmers because my heart goes out to them and the difficulties they are facing,” he told the gathering that comprised farmers, scientists, academia, representatives of the media, and other stakeholders in agriculture.
One of the challenges the farmers faced, and which the Minister highlighted, was the theft of crops, livestock and fish stocks. There would be serious consequence, he warned, if the theft of crops and livestock continued, Minister Baptiste warned.
He pointed out that 25 per cent the Region’s crops, livestock and fish stock fell prey to theft each year.
Arresting praedial larceny, he said, was one of the areas that needed urgent attention. The Region, he said, needed to consider legislation to grant law enforcement officers more power to act.
“We have to ensure our farmers are protected,” he told the gathering.
The workshops for which the joint opening was held were the Media Science Workshop, the Climate Change Workshop, the ICT Scan Workshop, and the Intra-ACP Policy Programme Workshop. Representatives of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), African Caribbean Pacific Group of Countries (ACP)-European Union (EU) Technical Centre for Cooperation on Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA), and the Association of Caribbean Media (ACM), also made remarks at the opening ceremony.
Caribbean Week of Agriculture is being held from 12-20 October. The activities, including an exposition, several workshops and seminars, meetings of organisations, and a special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) are being held at the Grand Royal Antiguan Beach Resort and the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
A new feature, a pageant, was added to the CWA activities this year. Four of the six contestants were at the opening ceremony to interact with the gathering. Miss Agriculture will be crowned on Thursday 18 October 2012.