CARICOM Countries Cutting Back On Food Imports, Guyana And Jamaica Growing More.

Photo: CARICOM. Fresh locally grown produce in a Caribbean market.
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CARICOM countries are making good progress to reduce the region’s overall food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025, a plan that started in 2022 with the object of improving the balance of payments and providing a defense against food insecurity.

That was the latest news from CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary-General of Economic Integration, Innovation and Development, Joseph Cox, who provided an update on measures by several countries, in a speech to the Rotary Club of New Kingston’s online meeting last week.

“We are at the midpoint for the 25 by 2025 programme and, in that regard, I am pleased to report 11.9 per cent growth in agriculture for Guyana, with growth in all subsectors in the year 2022.

“I am pleased to report a 17 per cent growth in agriculture in Jamaica for 2022. I am also pleased to report increased infrastructural investment and expenditure in Guyana, St. Lucia, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Montserrat,” he said.

Mr. Cox also reported that there has been an increase in budgetary allocations for agriculture across all member states.

“I’m pleased to report a US$2 million tuna expansion project in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I am pleased to indicate that in Guyana, soya bean production has expanded by 1,000 acres,” he informed.

Mr. Cox noted that improvements in lab facilities in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St. Lucia have been crucial, pointing out that there has been the introduction of high tech berry production in Trinidad and Tobago.

The Assistant Secretary-General said effective partnerships and collaborations have been critical to the success of the 25 by 2025 initiative.

These include the Black Belly Sheep Project between Guyana and Barbados; the export of soyabean meal to Trinidad and Tobago from Belize; advancement of the regional food terminal between Guyana and Barbados and Suriname; and increasing cross border investments, training and technical assistance, spanning Guyana, Belize, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Mr. Cox said strategic partnerships and continued investments are critical in ensuring that the “25% by 2025” strategy’s objectives are being implemented and urged stakeholders to reaffirm their commitment to the implementation of the initiative.

The commodities which are being targeted for increased production and to be sourced regionally are as follows:

  • Poultry
  • Corn and Soy
  • Niche Vegetables: Broccoli, Cauliflower, Carrots, Onions, Red Cabbage, Lettuce, Tomato
  • Fruits: Honey Dew, Cantaloupe, Soursop, Pineapples, Dragon Fruit, Strawberries, Avocado, Mangoes, Coconut and Citrus
  • Roots and Tubers: Cassava, Sweet Potato, Table Potato and Dasheen
  • Herbs and Spices: Ginger, Turmeric, Thyme, Chive and Marjoram
  • Livestock: Beef, Sheep, Fish and Goat

This is outlined in a document titled: ‘Regional Food Production and Productivity Towards a Sustainable Import Replacement Programme: 25% by 2025 Reduction in the Regional Food Bill’.

The document also states that for the period 2018-2020, the top five importing countries in the region were: Haiti – US$3.161 billion; Jamaica – US$1.2 billion; Trinidad and Tobago – US$1.08 billion; Bahamas – US$555.6 million, and Barbados – US$407.6 million.

The document is complex, but briefly what it says is that 80% of the meat eaten in CARICOM is poultry, which is mostly chicken, although the category includes ducks, turkeys, etc.

To raise more home-grown chickens, chicken feed is needed, but Guyana is now growing more corn and soya to meet this need.

No figures are available for Haiti, but it is known that Haiti grows and exports chicken and eggs to the Dominican Republic, so it may be assumed that Haitis is self sufficient in poultry.

The plan does not detail any plans to change local diets or cut back on imported nonessential products like sodas, frozen foods, and bottled drinks, or on whether hotels and resorts could do more to source their foods locally.

Sources: Jamaica GIS, CARICOM.


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