’25 in 5′ Plan to tackle CARICOM food import bill

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The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is committed to reducing its US$5B food import bill by 25% in the next five years (25 in 5) as it implements ifs food and nutrition programmes.

However, its strategies to achieve this goal must be grounded in a framework involving the Community, the private sector and international donor partners, and buttressed by multilateral support, particularly in the areas of policy Intervention, institutional strengthening, investment, and sector financing.

Mr. Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration spoke of the 25 in 5 plan while addressing a webinar that was focused on galvanising Multilateral Action to Prevent the Health Crisis from Becoming a Food Crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) hosted the virtual engagement on 23 July 2020.

The CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General told participants that the Region was achieving encouraging results with its food and nutrition security strategies, but that the COVID-19 pandemic was further highlighting the need to ensure affordable access to food. He pointed out that while there was no shortage of food in the Region, there was a “misalignment of supply and demand” that was as a result of supply chain disruptions.

From a food security and nutrition adequacy perspective, the Assistant Secretary-General said the Region was highly dependent on food imports such as wheat, animal feeds and a range of processed foods. CARICOM, he said, needed to ensure that the supply chain for key products continued uninterrupted, even while it continued to seek opportunities for import substitution.

“CARICOM countries must have plans in place to safeguard against these realities ever becoming a serious challenge or threat to our food security,” the Assistant Secretary-General said.

The 25 in 5 plan, Mr. Cox said, was not simply a slogan, but an imperative that had to be addressed within the context of food insecurity in the Region. That insecurity, he pointed out, was currently being fueled by a high food import bill, high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and the adverse consequences of climate change and extreme weather. 

The Caribbean Community Agriculture Policy (CAP) underpins the 25 in 5. The Guiding Regional Food Security Policies and Instruments for the Caribbean Region are mainly the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Action Plan (RFNSP&AP) and the Common Fisheries Policy which are further supported by the recently approved CARICOM COVID-19 Agri-food Plan.  The Main Pillars of the Action Plan are: Food Availability, Food Access; Food Utilisation/Nutritional Adequacy; and Stability of Food Supply.

Mr. Cox was one of five high level speakers at the webinar. The other speakers were: Marcelo Ebrard, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Pro Tempore Presidency at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC); Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Vinicio Cerezo, Former President of Guatemala, Secretary-General of the Central American Integration System (SICA), and Julio Berdegué, Assistant Director-General of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Regional Representative for Latin America and the Caribbean 

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