Private investment crucial for sustained growth of production, productivity in agriculture sector- CARICOM SG

CARICOM Secretary-General. Dr. Carla Barnett addresses the opening of the CARICOM Agri Investment Forum and Expo
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CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett, said Thursday that private investment was crucial for sustained growth of production and productivity in the agriculture sector.

Dr. Barnett was at the time addressing a packed National Cultural Centre in Georgetown, Guyana, at the opening of the three-day CARICOM Agri Investment Forum and Expo. The event is being held under the theme ‘Investing in Vision 25 by 2025’.

“We have come together today to make another important step on our journey towards reducing the regional food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.  This clear objective set by CARICOM Heads of Government requires rebooting of our agriculture sector to improve production and productivity, and intra-regional trade. That is what ‘Investing in Vision 25 by 2025‘ is all about.

“For the Caribbean Community, Investing in Vision 25 by 2025 for greater food and nutrition security is not just a concept, but an urgent necessity. It is a statement of commitment by the Heads of Government which demonstrates that the time for action is now. The path to the transformation of our regional food systems is in our hands,” the Secretary-General said.

Read the Secretary-General’s remarks below:

  • Your Excellency Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana;
  • Hon. John Briceño, Prime Minister of Belize and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community;
  • Other Heads of Government;
  • Honourable Ministers;
  • Head of Regional Institutions;
  • International Development Partners;
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
  • Young People of the Region;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

We have come together today to make another important step on our journey towards reducing the regional food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.  This clear objective set by CARICOM Heads of Government requires rebooting of our agriculture sector to improve production and productivity, and intra-regional trade. That is what “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025” is all about.

For the Caribbean Community, Investing in Vision 25 by 2025 for greater food and nutrition security is not just a concept, but an urgent necessity. It is a statement of commitment by the Heads of Government which demonstrates that the time for action is now. The path to the transformation of our regional food systems is in our hands.

We undertake this task at a time of great global uncertainty. Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic exacted a significant toll on our economies, but we are now facing significantly increased prices of food, fuel and other basic goods, due to the war in Ukraine and long-lasting supply chain disruptions. This adds to the stresses on the livelihoods of the vulnerable people in our populations, increases the cost of doing business and places additional pressures on government budgets.

With the on-going removal of the restrictions that came with the pandemic, our economies are now poised to recover some of the ground lost during those trying times. It is a stressful time that is testing our resilience significantly. However, I believe that the spirit of cooperation, which we have always shown in times of adversity, will be the bedrock upon which we overcome the current challenges.

Our tourism sector, which has many linkages throughout our economies, has thankfully started to recover and will contribute to recovery, however uneven, across our countries. 

Agriculture, though, is what we are focusing on single-mindedly today. It has the potential to contribute significantly to economic recovery and resilience, and drive inclusive socio-economic development for the Region. It is a major pillar, upon which we can build to develop the human and economic capital which exists within our Region. 

Today, we do not only stress the importance of increased investment in our food and agriculture sector if we are to meet our goal of greater food and nutrition security, we also demonstrate the willingness to do the level of planning and execution together with the full range of stakeholders that we need to be working together to achieve the 25 by 2025 vision – from investors to farmers to technology providers to agro-processors to consumers.

With food prices now at their highest levels since 2008, we are doing what we must do to seize this challenge as the opportunity to increase our own production for trade within the regional markets and further afield.

We are not underestimating the task at hand. Success will require increased support from our governments to alleviate the technological, logistical and financing constraints faced by our producers. This will require hard decisions to be made on the allocation of funding to agricultural and rural development, agricultural research, national transportation – those allied sectors and services that play important roles in bringing technological solutions to our farming communities and bringing production to market.

Private investment is crucial for sustained growth of production and productivity in agriculture, as in any sector.  This is why it is very heartening to see that so many investors have responded to the call to actively participate in this important event. There will be a lot of follow-up work to be done, to ensure that there are concrete results flowing from this engagement and we are here to do everything possible to assist.

As we move to achieve the Vision 25 by 2025, we must seek to take deliberate steps to not only recognise the role that women and youth already play as farmers, but we must fully integrate our women and our youth into mainstream planning for agriculture development. I am, therefore, happy to note that there will be special sessions dedicated to addressing the concerns and aspirations of these two important groups of stakeholders.

This Forum and Expo seeks to provide opportunities for investment, new project development and technological advancement for the CARICOM Agri-Food System. The results and outcomes of this event must serve as a medium to enhance the production efficiency, livelihoods and competitiveness of our hard-working farmers, agro-processors and marketers who stand to benefit from the various technological, logistical and financial solutions that are on offer.

I take this opportunity to offer a special thank you to                                   His Excellency Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, for his dynamic leadership as Lead Head of Government for Agriculture in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet, and for having had the foresight to not only conceive of this Agri-Investment Forum and Expo, but for having put dedicated resources and so much of his own energy  into moving the entire programme of regional agricultural revitalization forward.

I also thank the Government of Guyana, the Minister of Agriculture and his staff, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and his staff, and all other ministries involved in hosting this event, for putting in place the resources, logistical arrangements and the planning necessary to deliver it in a relatively short time.

It is, therefore, my wish that the deliberations and interactions over these few days will be highly productive, and that we would have moved the process of agriculture revitalisation forward in a very meaningful way.

I thank you.

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