CARICOM leader pledge to tackle barriers to trade, transportation 

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—as curtain comes down on Agri-investment forum  

A high-level team, comprising Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley and other Heads of Government, has been tasked with developing a proposal for the establishment of a sustainable Regional Transportation System for consideration by the CARICOM Heads of Government in July 2022.

The Heads of Governments were given the task at the close of the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo as the Region renewed its commitment to tackle a number of challenges plaguing its people, among them transportation and trade barriers.

The lack of adequate regional transportation by sea and air remains an obstacle to the transportation of food within the Region. As such, it is expected that the proposal to be compiled by Prime Minister Mottley and Heads of Government in the quasi-Cabinet responsible for Transport (Marítime and Aviation) and Agriculture will result in a Regional Transportation System that is not only adequate but sustainable.

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This is according to an outcome statement issued by the Department of Public Information (DPI) on Saturday.

In crafting the proposal, the Heads of Government are expected to consult with the Caribbean Private Sector, the international donor community and multilateral development agencies. “In making this recommendation, the Group was heartened by the advice of the Caribbean Development Bank that it is willing to use its best efforts to mobilise resources in this effort,” a section of the statement read.

The issue of trade barriers also took center stage when the representative group of CARICOM Heads of Government and Regional Officials converged at the National Cultural Center and Arthur Chung Conference Center for the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo.

It was undoubtedly agreed that the biggest inhibitors to the development of agri-food systems within the region are trade barriers, particularly non-tariff barriers. However, they admitted that the issue requires political consensus. As such, the group of Heads of Government recommended that a Special Committee immediately prepare proposals, with time-bound deadlines, for eliminating such trade barriers.

“The Special Committee should be convened by the Minister in the quasi-Cabinet responsible for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy, and its proposals for implementation should be presented at a Special Meeting of Heads of Government in the third quarter of 2022,” a section of the statement read.

Two other priority areas – Food Insecurity, and Women and Youth – were also discussed with the hope that solution-oriented proposals stemming from the Agri-Invesment Forum will be adopted by the all CARICOM Heads of Government.

It was noted that the agricultural plan, proposed by Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali to the CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in March 2022 should be fully implemented as swiftly as possible, with the involvement of all relevant stakeholders.

In this regard, President Ali was requested to mandate the Ministerial Task Force on Food Security to propose an implementation schedule for urgent consideration by Heads of Government.

Also, recognising the importance of the participation of women and youth in agriculture – both to enlarge the sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product of national economies and to empower the two groups to share in the earnings that can be generated by a vibrant agricultural sector – it was proposed that the CARICOM Secretariat be authorised to commission an urgent study, for consideration by the Special Meeting of Heads of Government on ways to attract and expand the participation of youth and women by at least 20% by 2025.

According to the statement, the terms of reference of the study should include machinery for providing credit; crop insurance; contract purchasing of produce; and training including in the use of modern technology.

The representative group included Heads of Government from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Montserrat and Trinidad and Tobago and other high-level representatives from The Bahamas, Grenada, Jamaica, St.Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname. Regional and international institutions were also present at the forum and expo which unfolded at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre on May 19 and 20, 2022.

At the forum, the high-level officials discussed the shortages and high prices of imported food; the shortage and increased prices of fertilizers and other agricultural inputs; and the severe problems affecting transportation and supply.

It was against that background that the four priority areas were identified.

“They noted with great concern that the member states of CARICOM have been deeply impacted by these developments which have resulted in a dramatic increase in the cost of food, exposing still further the region’s food insecurity due to its vulnerability to external influences.  The Group recognized that, within CARICOM, member states have the capacity to attain a high level of food security for the Community as a whole, provided that urgent action is taken to establish sustainable machinery, and to adhere to the terms of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” the statement read.

It was agreed that lack of action to implement the 2005 “Framework for the repositioning of Caribbean agriculture” (the Jagdeo initiative) which was agreed by CARICOM Governments, constrained the Community’s capacity to safeguard against the impact of the present crisis.

Further, they took note of the work of the Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security chaired by Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, in advising on the development of a CARICOM food system.

The “Agri-Investment Forum and Expo,” which was organized by Guyana, was viewed as a timely initiative that allowed for critical issues to be discussed and recommendations on the way forward.   In August 2022, Trinidad and Tobago will host an “Agriculture and Food Security Forum” and it is expected that the momentum will be maintained as the region seeks to address critical issues.

Pic save as leaders

Several Caricom leaders and Caricom Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett [fourth right] following the official opening ceremony of the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo, at the National Cultural Centre (NCC), Thursday.



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