CWA 2021 Launch acknowledges crucial role of agriculture in Region – Guyana Agriculture Minister
Keynote Address by the Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha, Minister of Agriculture, Guyana at the Launch of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2021, Wednesday, 15 September 2021
- Mr. Shaun Baugh, moderator of today’s launch
- Mr. Joseph Cox, Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, CARICOM Secretariat
- Your Excellency Dr. Manuel Otero, Director-General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA),
- Your Excellency Dr. Julio Antonio Berdegué, Assistant Director-General, Latin America and the Caribbean of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- Mr. Ignatius Jean, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI)
- Mr. Errington Thompson, President of the Agriculture Alliance of the Caribbean (AACARI)
- Sister Member States, Farmers, agri-manufacturers and agripreneurs, students and other stakeholders joining us online, A pleasant good morning to you all.
I have the distinct honour and pleasure, of delivering the keynote address at today’s launch of Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2021. I see this as a distinct honour for two reasons:
First, the Caribbean Week of Agriculture will for the very first time be hosted as a virtual event. While the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the globe and has served to postpone, cancel, or scale back important Regional events, this event while certainly of a different format to previous years, promises to be no less impactful and exciting. In fact, the virtual format has the potential of reaching a much wider audience given that the need for costly travel would be virtually removed, and importantly, the format allows for the exploration and embrace of emerging technologies in the areas of Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), a field, that is increasingly important for a modernising and technology-driven Regional agricultural sector. A very cursory review of the programme of planned activities during this important CWA, suggests the clear intent of showcasing opportunities for practical technology-oriented solutions. The Virtual Trade Show and Exhibition and the Virtual Market Place stand out as beacons in this regard.
Secondly, CWA 2021 marks the return of this important Regional event from its longest absence on the Regional calendar since its inception in 1999. Notwithstanding the obvious challenges posed by the pandemic, the fact that CWA 2021 is being launched today, is indicative of the commitment, determination, innovativeness, and the acknowledgement of the importance and the crucial role and place, that agriculture occupies in this Region be it in food and nutrition security or employment and income generation. The message is clear, “NOT EVEN A PANDEMIC WILL STOP US FROM DOING WHAT IS NECESSARY FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF REGIONAL AGRICULTURE.”
Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in the CARICOM, and President Mohamed Irfaan Ali in February this year presented to CARICOM Heads of Government, presented the paper, “Advancing the CARICOM Agri-Food Systems Agenda; Prioritising Regional Food and Nutrition Security” for transforming the agriculture sector in CARICOM.
As the Chair of the Special Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security, I assure you, the theme of CWA 2021, ‘TRANSFORMING OUR FOOD SYSTEMS’ is aligned with the thrust of the Special Ministerial Taskforce whose main objective is to provide guidance on the transformation of the agri-food system, that is resilient, provides attractive and sustainable wealth creation opportunities for potential investors, and guarantees food and nutrition security for the Region.
We recognise that this desired transformation of the Regional Agri-Food System towards full commercialisation requires the active participation of the regional private sector. In this regard, the Special Ministerial Taskforce collaborates closely with the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), an Associate Institution of the Caribbean Community invited by the Conference of Heads of Government to engage, in a formal and structured manner, with the Organs of the Caribbean Community in an effort to secure the full implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
We consider this collaboration to be crucial and the MTF has committed to support the CPSO in its efforts to develop and target regional investments and intra-regional trade in the identified priority commodities of poultry and niche vegetables in the immediate term, and to give special attention to other strategic commodities in the near to medium term, same being corn, soy, rice, meat (beef, sheep and goat) and Coconuts.
Guyana believes in leading by example, in 2021 government has allocated an initial $500 million to commence infrastructural works in the area earmarked for the cultivation of 125 acres corn and 125 acres of soya bean by a consortium of local private sector.
Over the last months, the Special Ministerial Taskforce has been proactive in initiating dialogue with regional and strategic entities on the subject particularly of the de-risking of the regional agricultural sector. In this regard the MTF has received presentations on:
- A possible Agricultural Insurance Product for the Region by a regional company pioneering such a product in a Member State and outlining the elements for the establishment of a Regional Agricultural Insurance Product.
- A proposed Sustainable Caribbean Finance Facility for the establishment of a $10B Sustainable Financing Facility for the Caribbean to support Agricultural Investments by 2035.
I am very pleased to report as the Chair of this MTF, that a sub-committee is currently being established, specifically to address opportunities for establishing a similar agricultural insurance product on a regional scale, and for advancing the proposal for the Sustainable Caribbean Finance Facility. Developments on these two areas, will be highlighted in greater detail in a report from the MTF during the COTED Ministerial.
Finally, it would be remiss of me, if I did not acknowledge the stalwart efforts led by the CARICOM Secretariat in planning this major event, but supported equally energetically by the Planning Committee and its various sub-committees comprised of regional stakeholders.
Many of these agencies are participating in this launch today and I therefore take this opportunity of commending you for your continued support and the invaluable resources you have dedicated to ensuring the success of CWA 2021.
I wish you continued success in your planning efforts leading up to the actual week of events, and now declare the CWA 2021, officially launched.