Caribbean Market Can Become High-Value and Specialised – President Ali at Agri-Food Investors Conference

Guyana's President Irfaan Ali, Lead Head with responsibility for agriculture in the CARICOM Quasi Cabinet, addresses the Conference on Tuesday

(Guyana Chronicle) President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Tuesday said that the Caribbean has an opportunity to position its market as a high-value specialised one.

Speaking at the Caribbean Agri-Food Investors Conference, he said: “The Caribbean Market must be positioned and as we are saying now, positioning the market as a high-value specialised market because of scale and because of our location and our own competitive advantages, we have a great opportunity of positioning this market as a high-value specialised market.”

The Caribbean Agri-Food Investors Conference is an event that seeks to drive international investors to Caribbean agribusiness opportunities.

During the one-day, virtual conference, investors heard from key country leadership on the case for investment in the region and they are guided through the full landscape of opportunities and challenges in the sector.

President Ali said that historically, they have a very narrow and dated view of agriculture in which some believe that agriculture is still a process of persons sitting in a field and working in a field, however, agriculture has changed.

“With these changes come the opportunity to invest, come the opportunity to modernise, come the opportunity to transform…today I want us to re-examine the way in which we are capturing this subject matter and I want a position to the forum that we capture it under the heading and this is where we’re going; a highly integrated food production system,” President Ali related.

Noting that agriculture is just one component of the ecosystem of the highly integrated food production system, he said the ecosystem has to support the food production system.

He said that when talking about investments, they are talking about creating a business, an economic model that works for the investor, the people and the country in the context of food security and creating a high-value market.

In creating the framework to enable the positioning of the Caribbean market as a high-value specialised market, President Ali stated one of the critical issues in creating the ecosystem and looking at the high-value market, which is transport and logistics.

“This has been the greatest bug bearer for the movement of products and produces within the region itself,” he related.

Noting the tremendous opportunities in the transport and logistics aspect of the food production system, he said that it is important for them to understand that they want to create a regional food hub.

“…but as it is, all those who are connected with the distribution of food are looking north and coming down. So, what we are positioning now, the ecosystem to do for us is to look at the opportunity that exists in northern Brazil and to re-engineer the food production system in which we start by utilising the potential of northern Brazil through Guyana, up through the region and into North America,” he explained.

The head-of-state said that the transports, logistics, value-added, distribution and the entire reorganising of that network can meet their food security needs and give them the opportunity to become a major player in the transport, logistics and distribution business for food coming out of northern Brazil.

“Now food can get through the Caribbean, get through Guyana, in the Caribbean and up north in less than 72 hours coming out of north Brazil if that transportation ecosystem, logistics and regional food hub is invested into,” President Ali stated.

Additionally, he spoke about investing in technology to ensure the prevention of post-harvest losses. “With technology, you can now produce the same amount of potato that you produce on 100 acres of land, on less than five acres of land,” he said.

While the Caribbean itself is well positioned, he said that their collective trade agreement offers them a market size in terms of preferential trade of more than 450 million people.

“That alone also gives you a market that is much wider than the CARICOM market. And of course, the world needs food…so, global demand for food is not shrinking. Global demand for food is not shrinking in any way,” he stated.

President Ali said that the direction in which they are going, and the type of incentives they are offering is second to none.

“Now we are also a region that produces a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices. Now, fruits, and natural juices, are an emerging market that is going to have great potential. Coconut water, and the entire coconut value chain, all of these are tremendous opportunities. I spoke about aquaculture recently,” he noted.

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