The way how industrialised countries held on to COVID-19 vaccines while the rest of the world struggled for access, should be a signal to Caribbean countries about the need to have food security in the event of a crisis because big countries will look out for their own people first.
The caution has come from the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) in a recent blog post from the Barbados-headquartered agency.
“COVID-19 by now has shown us that globally, countries put their citizens first as we have seen in the case of vaccines. Consequently, laying the foundation for food security must be of the highest priority for us as a Caribbean region,” the agency noted, adding that external dependence on food imports heightened the region’s vulnerability from a national security standpoint.
It contended: “Given the already high levels of debt, increasing unemployment and more of our people falling into poverty because of the coronavirus pandemic, continued heavy reliance on imported food is simply unsustainable.”
In the article titled Building Food Security via Technology – A Caribbean Export Perspective, the agency said the COVID-19 pandemic “continues to lay bare” the Caribbean’s vulnerabilities, and food insecurity had become
a front-burner issue.
Caribbean Export emphasised that with the region being one of the most food insecure on the planet, the issue was further accentuated by the ongoing disruptions in the global supply chains which has resulted in shortages and significant price hikes.
“The figures paint a worrisome picture of our current situation. As a Caribbean Community, by and large we import more than 60 per cent of the food we consume, with some countries importing more than 80 per cent of the food they consume,” it was revealed.
At the same time, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicated that only Belize, Guyana, and Haiti produced more than 50 per cent of the food their citizens consumed.
The agency explained that currently Guyana, Belize and Suriname had the land space to produce food on the scale to achieve food security. However, it cited the example of Israel, which incorporated high levels of technology into its agricultural sector and was able to produce significant amounts of the food the country required.
“For us in the Caribbean, the introduction of new technologies presents a major opportunity to accelerate food production, create jobs and attract investment. Embracing and accelerating the use of technology in agriculture or AgTech makes sense since it allows us to produce more with less, making food production more efficient.”
Caribbean Export highlighted the use of hydroponics and aquaponics as examples of technology that circumvented the need for large land space.
“For us at the Caribbean Export Development Agency, there is a path forward. We have worked with the Caribbean Association of Investment Agencies (CAIPA) to identify AgTech as a priority sector to attract foreign direct investment,” it added. (IMC1)