The call was made at the opening of the three-day Agri-Food Investment Forum and Expo which aims to achieve a 25 per cent reduction in the region’s food import bill by 2025, stimulate increased investment and expenditure in the agriculture and food value chain, support infrastructural sectors, strengthen cooperation and economic integration in the agri-food industry, and seek practicable solutions to foster intra-regional trade.
Leading the charge was Prime Minister of Belize and Caricom Chairman, John Briceño, who said Caricom states must do better to remove impositions and barriers affecting trade regionally.
He said they must use their efforts and energies to “adopt policies to support the growth of our productive sector, improve market facilitation and develop international transportation”.
Addressing the issue of regional food security, Briceño stated that there must first be an appreciation for the fact that there are dedicated Caricom farmers and agro-processors, who are knowledgeable and skilled enough to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist within the region, to attain food security and enhance economic activity.
While welcoming the forum which brought together member states and other key stakeholders, the Caricom Chairman commended the administration of President Ali for its role in leading the charge for agriculture and food security.
“As Heads, we are convinced that President Ali’s plans for agricultural development in the region are realistic and more so, they are imperative if we are to achieve food security for our Caricom region,” the Belizean leader said.
Echoing such sentiments, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley said it was time to accelerate the advocacy to remove the international trade barriers that have strangled the region.
“We expect our farmers to produce for us only in a crisis; they have to be able to produce all year round,” she said.
“We have a responsibility now to change mindsets and to change policies…because if we don’t make the steps now to remove the barriers, God knows how we can create the productive base that President Ali has so masterfully drafted for us, in terms of the plans to expand productivity, and to expand production.”
Prime Minister Mottley also said that Caricom member states have to ensure that ports of entry are priority areas of investments to facilitate the movement of cargo and people.
“We have a responsibility to take pre-emptive action in this region to protect our people and that is why all of us meet in Georgetown today, against this backdrop,” the Barbadian leader emphasised.
The investment forum and expo is being held under the theme “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025”.
It will see engagements, and inform dialogue among key stakeholders along the agri-food value chain — policymakers, development partners, foreign and local private investors, farmers, distributors — on how investment could be encouraged. Stakeholders within the industry are also exhibiting their products and services.