PARAMARIBO – The Prime Minister Mia Mottley, now on an official visit to Suriname, has used a tour of the regional food safety agency and a main market here to stress the “critical” role of agriculture in the region.
Mottley toured the Suriname-based Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) and Parmaribo’s Central Market with President Desiré Bouterse, as her three-day visit to the southernmost CARICOM member state continues.
“If we start to see agriculture, not in the context or through the plantation model, but as a sector that is critical in a world that is very uncertain and very dangerous, both by climate change considerations as well as geopolitical considerations, then we would appreciate the absolute need to value the two most precious things – water and food. If you value water and food, then we have to protect them.”
Mottley citied New Zealand’s efforts to protect the health of its agriculture and to ensure that its food products were safe. A 2013 botulism scare struck NZ dairy producer Fonterra, makers of iconic Anchor cheddar cheese, prompting a massive recall and a fine for poor handling practices.
The Prime Minister continued: “They see agriculture as something, not that is done on the side, but they see it as the bedrock of their development,” adding that the Caribbean must see agriculture in a similar light.
She said it was necessary to remove those barriers so people could easily move within the region, similar to how the Surinamese are able to move from district to district. She stressed that if this was not done, “then we will not give full expression to what it is to have a Single Market and a Single Economy”.
Mottley, the lead prime minister on the CSME in CARICOM’s quasi-cabinet of heads of government, said the structure and board of CAHFSA was a reminder of the regional work it did, suggesting that few businesses knew anything about the agency’s work.
“I am almost certain that if we were to do a survey now of Barbadian enterprises, that 90 per cent of them would not know about the work of CAHFSA. It is a story waiting to be told and it is a success story in what you have been able to do. The work that you do with the cassava flour for us; the work that you are doing in terms of expanding capacity with those countries that can export poultry and pork needs to be expanded in almost every area of our agriculture production,” she said.
CAHFSA’s role is in strengthening infrastructure, institutional and human capacities to ensure agricultural goods meet international agricultural health and food safety standards. CARICOM leaders, who set up the agency, are banking on it boosting intraregional trade flow and increase opportunities for competitive international trade.
Prime Minister Mottley returns home on Friday. (BT)