Solid Policy Decisions on Agri-Business Expected From Agriculture Talks In Belize

FLASHBACK: Dep. Dir., CCCCC Dr. Ulric Trotz (l) with farmers at an agroforestry project in Belize, to boost the Region's resilience to climate change. (Photo via Zadie Neufville, IPS)
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Frank discussions are anticipated between the private sector and policymakers at regional agricultural meetings in Belize this week.

A two-day Regional Planners’ Forum on Agriculture, under the theme ‘Capitalising on the new frontier in global agriculture’ starts the week of activities on 30 September. Solid policy decisions are expected to flow from the meetings that will attract participation from about 150 delegates. By mid-morning Sunday ahead of the activities, about 50 delegates – among whom were representatives of the CARICOM Secretariat, Community Institutions and international partners in agriculture –  had arrived in Belize on one flight.

According to Programme Manager for Agriculture at the CARICOM Secretariat, Mr. Shaun Baugh, the forum is planned to be “more business oriented in the sense that we want to bring together agri-business stakeholders from the private sector to link up with the public sector”.

It is anticipated that the leading agri-business entities in the region will have “frank and open” discussions with policymakers in the agriculture sector. The aim is to outline the successes, identify the challenges and make recommendations to overcome those challenges in the agriculture sector in the Region.

Panel discussions will be held on subject areas including ICT and Agriculture; Cannabis and Caribbean agriculture; Wealth Creation in Agri-Business; Sugar; Food Safety; Climate Change and Agriculture; Women and Youth in Agriculture; The Blue Economy; and Private Sector Engagement.

The outcome, Mr. Baugh said, will be a “solid policy position” on the different recommendations.

“It is exciting for us  in the sense that we have thought long and hard about how best we can deliver benefits to our Member States; how best we can realise or bring to reality the goals which are under the Community Agriculture Policy that speaks about food and nutrition security, speaks about production, speaks about sustainable development of our forestry and so on,” Mr. Baugh said.

He added that the aim is to bring to the meeting practical, workable solutions that are appropriate for the Region. He said the delegates will consider different tools including drone technology, different applications that will boost production and productivity to farmers and the sector as a whole.

Robust discussions are anticipated for the discussions on cannabis and hemp, and sugar.

“We have brought in experts … to talk with our stakeholders on where the commercial volumes are, and how it could be done as a practical agricultural crop. At the same time, we want to look at how best we can introduce hemp and cannabis and still guarantee food security,” Mr. Baugh said.

He added that while “sugar in the Region is still sweet”, the sector was undergoing some challenges. Discussions will be held among stakeholders on global market trends, as well as how to have a sustainable sugar industry.

Banner spotted Sunday at the Philip S.W. Goldson International Airport, Belize, declaring the country to be free from the TR4 disease

Another high point of the activities in Belize will be a Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture on Friday 4 October. Among the matters that CARICOM Agriculture Ministers will discuss are two diseases which are threatening the Region: the African Swine Fever, and the lethal TR4 which affects bananas. A course of action has been devised to ensure that TR4 doesn’t breach the Region’s borders.

Fisheries-related matters, trade in agriculture and the outcomes of the Planners’ Forum are also on the Ministers’ agenda.

Board Meetings of Community Institutions including the Caribbean Agricultural Development Institute (CARDI), the the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), as well as a Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Ministers’ Meeting with their counterparts in Central America.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the  Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) are providing support for the activities in Belize.

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