Argentina is promising to use its vast experience and expertise in agriculture to help Barbados improve food security.
The South American nation is one of the top food-producing and food-exporting countries of the world, with agricultural goods, both raw and processed, earning over half of the country’s foreign exchange, and, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), six per cent of its gross domestic product of over US$583 million comes from the sector. On the other hand, Barbados’ food import bill stands at $500 million a year.
During a welcome cocktail and reception last night at his Hastings, Christ Church residence, Argentina’s new ambassador to Barbados Gustavo Martinez Pandiani offered his country’s assistance to help Barbados develop its agricultural sector.
“Allow me to highlight the fact that historically Argentina had its roots in agriculture, and at a time when food security is a growing concern, we are more than willing to share knowledge and experiences in this aspect,” Martinez told the gathering that included Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer-Suckoo, Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean.
In 2010 the Argentine government launched a Participative and Federal Strategic Plan for the Agrifood Sector and Agro-industry, with a view to boosting the agrifood and agro-industrial sector, increasing value added and strengthening the country’s role in global value chains by 2020.
A national food security plan was developed in 2003 to grant the entire population, in particular the most vulnerable groups, access to a sufficient and varied diet.
Martinez said his government firmly believed that in order to create closer ties with Barbados and the rest of the region it was important that the country had a representative here.
“In these times when austerity is the norm in the sphere of international affairs our permanent presence here is the most comprehensive proof of our willingness and interest in strengthening our friendship,” he said.
“I am not only referring to developing our commercial relationship, which certainly has great potential, but we are particularly interested in cultural exchange, language teaching and technical cooperation,” he said, adding that both countries have rich cultures and strong inclination towards the various art forms and sports.
Stating that he would be happy if at the end of his mission here “much more Argentine wine is enjoyed in Barbados and much more Barbados rum is enjoyed in Argentina”, the diplomat pledged to be a promoter of both countries.
“It would be extremely satisfying for me to see, in a few years, people dancing to soca in Argentina and to tango in Barbados . . . .I certainly believe that through sports we can reciprocally promote humanitarian, social and educational values,” he added.
Pointing out that the South American country was aware of the challenges Barbados and the rest of the region were facing due to the constant threat of more aggressive weather systems, Martinez also said he was hoping to help increase cooperation between the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency and its Argentine counterpart.
“We also consider that Barbados is an important generator of knowledge in the prestigious University of the West Indies, an institution with which we are intent on deepening relations,” he added, while pointing out that Argentina would also be depending on Barbados’ leadership role in the Caribbean Community to coordinate activities between the South American nation and the region, especially in the areas of human rights and sustainable development.
In welcoming Martinez and his family, McClean said the two nations had a lot to learn and gain from each other through closer ties.
“We look forward certainly to strengthening and deepening the relationship we have with your country. One of the areas of course that has kept us not as close as we should be is the issue of the language barrier and we have been actively removing those barriers, and with your support and initiatives we discussed, that is one area we will cooperate,” McClean said.
During the reception guests were treated to an array of Argentine Trapiche wines, which have now been introduced into the local market, making Barbados the 84th market for the product. (MM)