A dozen of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) farm ministers met virtually today on plans to boost farming and safeguard the food supply amidst the ongoing health crisis, in a region that relies heavily on imports and tourists, the main food and agriculture organisation in the Americas has revealed.
Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture of St Vincent and the Grenadines, convened the meeting of 13 CARICOM agriculture ministers. He will also lead the efforts of the Caribbean Community’s agri-food sector to tackle the pandemic, according to the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
IICA has agreed to facilitate direct dialogue with agriculture ministers throughout the Americas to share “useful information for decision making related to food security and providing online training in good agricultural and health practices for rural workers, the agency said.
Minister of Agriculture Indar Weir joined his colleagues from all CARICOM member states except Belize and Montserrat in the videoconference.
“The most important role we can play is to inspire and motivate others”, said Michael Pintard, Minister of Marine Resources and Agriculture of The Bahamas. “COVID-19 is one of those defining tragedies from which we will recover. If we unite as a region and as nations, we will be able to inspire our people”.
IICA Director General Manuel Otero pledged: “We will work with the Caribbean countries to devise ambitious proposals to generate a new extension services strategy based on the use of online and mobile telephone systems, as well as to drive horizontal cooperation, enabling the ministers to establish contact with key countries to build bridges and to take advantage of existing complementarities.”
Barbados which imports 80 per cent of the food that it consumes joins other CARICOM nations whose food security – reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food – is in peril.
“On the other hand, Jamaica and Guyana are experiencing grave difficulties in storing excess food production after the closure of borders and the collapse of tourism, which is a vital industry for the regional economy that is normally the main outlet for most of the food that is produced locally,” IICA said.
With drought also facing the region, the region’s agriculture sector is also finding it difficult to increase resilience to climate variability and to incorporate technology, IICA said.
IICA’s Director-General also proposed to the CARICOM ministers of agriculture that international financial agencies should be included in future online meetings, as part of a strategy to integrate efforts to guarantee food supply during the current pandemic and in its aftermath.