President Irfaan Ali lauds CARICOM’s progress in achieving goal 25 by 2025
(CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana, 20 October 2023) – President of Guyana, His Excellency Irfaan Ali, on Friday said the Caribbean Community’s 25 by 25 initiative to reduce food imports by 25 percent by 25% is well underway and the Region is committed to seeing the goal to fulfillment.
In his feature address at the opening of Guyana’s 3rd Agri-Investment Forum and Expo at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on October 20, the lead Head of Government on Agriculture in the CARICOM Quasi-cabinet said;
“Let me assure you that we are committed to position Guyana among the leaders on food security. Let me assure you that vision 25 by 2025, the CARICOM vision, will succeed. There is absolutely no room for failure. Hand-in-hand, we are already seeing St. Vincent, Barbados, St Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Jamaica make tremendous strides amid great difficulties; increased investment from governments and strong commitments to expand production in these countries.”
Held under the theme “Accelerating Investment in Vision 25 by 2025,” the Forum and Expo from October 20-22, features over 150 exhibitors and over 80 agro-processors.
President Ali informed the opening about myriad initiatives underway to boost Guyana’s agricultural capacity including a partnership with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) to establish a technology-driven data center that will also serve the needs of the Region.
Support is also coming from Cuba for the sustainable production of high-quality organic honey involving indigenous and rural communities.
With youth and women as key target groups for their increased participation in agriculture, he said Guyana plans to rebuild the coco and coffee industry and has allocated more than 3000 acres of new land for coconut plantations.
President Ali added that his government’s focus on food production has seen over 500 percent increase in aquaculture, the planting of rice in Hinterland areas, and a wheat trial to build the country’s resilience to global shocks.
He lauded the work of the CARICOM Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security noting it “cannot be understated.”
Commending the energy and drive of CARICOM and the Secretariat in vision 25 by 2025, he said “the puzzle is coming together.”
Deputy Secretary-General within the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Armstrong Alexis, addressed the opening on behalf of the CARICOM Secretary-General.
He too highlighted achievements the agricultural sector has recorded over the past year, due in part to robust engagements like the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo.
Increased cross-border investments, identification of possible agricultural insurance products for farmers, adoption of new regional agricultural policies, increased budgetary allocation to the sector in almost all CARICOM Member States and the establishment of a Youth in Agriculture Advisory Council, are some of the strides the Deputy Secretary-General identified.
Urging continued progress, he called for “firm investment decisions and conclusions” from the Forum.
Dr. Alexis lauded President Ali’s commitment as lead Head on Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in CARICOM.
Farmers, whom he said were “the often-unsung heroes in agriculture,” also came in for high commendation.
“Through innovation and steely commitment, they continue to produce high quality crops, despite the myriad challenges which they face such as praedial larceny, pest and disease outbreaks, and climate change,” Dr. Alexis said.
He told the Forum that CARICOM also recognises the transformative processes the sector has experienced through the work of the CARICOM Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security.
“As we launch this third Expo today, we can affirm that the political will exists, and all stakeholders, including the private sector, remain committed,” the Deputy Secretary-General stated.
Even as CARICOM records strong achievements in the agriculture sector, he said there is still an imperative to fully transform food systems against other the realities. These include the aging farmer population, the effect of climate change, technological advancements, a growing population, and shifts in demand for the type of food the Region consumers.
CARICOM also needs to tackle market distortions which see regional producers competing in a marketplace where international competitors price their offerings below the cost of production.
“Our farmers are often unable to match these prices or compete on an international scale because of existing market distorting subsidies. It is therefore critical that we continue to explore opportunities to move up the value chain, and transition from being mere primary producers to food processors,” Dr Alexis told the forum, which was also addressed by Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, Hon. Zulfikar Mustaph.