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PM Mottley tells Caricom in wake of increases in food prices
Painting a vivid picture of the growing challenges being experienced in the global market as countries such as Russia, Ukraine, India and Argentina impose export restrictions, Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley said as the Region awaits the introduction of global initiatives by the UN Secretary General’s Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, it is imperative for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to take proactive steps to safeguard its people – but this, she says, requires a “change in mindset” and “policies” some of which are very bureaucratic.
“We have a responsibility now to change mindsets, and to change policies,” Prime Minister Mottley admonished the Region’s Leaders as she tackled head-on the issue of Food Security during the opening ceremony of Guyana’s Agri-Investment Forum and Expo at the National Cultural Center on Thursday.
She said while Caribbean People, on a daily basis, are referred to as a family, it is often done so without reference to the bureaucratic obstacles or governmental intransigence that plague Member States. Citing an example, the Barbadian Prime Minister said the Regional Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Regime must be modernized so that safe foods can enter, circulate and exit the single economic space efficiently.
“In Barbados, we have a responsibility also to be more agile with respect to those things that we do to allow goods into our own territory from the region, as we would expect every territory in the Caribbean Community so to do,” the Prime Minister said.
Underscoring the importance of the effective implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and reviving the ‘Jagdeo Initiative,’ Prime Minister Mottley warned: “…if we don’t make the steps now to remove the barriers, [only] God knows how we can create the productive base that President [Irfaan] Ali has so masterfully drafted for us in terms of the plans to expand productivity and to expand production.”.
The Jagdeo Initiative was a strategy designed to remove constraints to the development of agriculture in the Caribbean. According to a Private Sector Commission (PSC) Report, dated 2007, the initiative was built on past regional efforts to develop a Common Agricultural Policy, CAP. It had identified 10 key binding constraints faced by the sector.
With a population of approximately 18 million people, CARICOM aims to reduce the Region’s Food Import Bill by 25% by 2025. When visitors are added, the population jumps to approximately 32 million, and for Prime Minister Mottley, it is equally important for the Region to share not only its rich culture but foods.
“It requires us to have a different mindset because we bring people to this region, and we want to feed them, what they eat from where they come, rather than understanding that it is our responsibility to be unique and different, and it is our responsibility to give them a flavor that might entice them to return,” she reasoned.
Guyana, she pointed out, from the 70s to the 2000s have indigenized its food – an act, she said, other Caribbean countries should emulate.
Further, Prime Minister Mottley said while it’s important for the Region to feed its people, it should also strive to become the bread basket of the Americas, and increase exports to the world at large. But again, she underscored the need to address red tapes that continue to affect trade with the international community.
“We need now, equally to accelerate our advocacy to remove the international trade barriers that have so strangled us. We cannot expect our farmers to produce for us only in a crisis, they have to be able to produce all year round,” the Barbadian Prime Minister said.
She added: “And we face hypocrisy of a world that continues to allow the most powerful countries to subsidize domestic agriculture while the rest of us have to literally play by rules that do not allow us to support our farmers when they most need the support.”
Prime Minister Mottley pointed out that for more than 30 years, CARICOM has called for “special and differential treatment” but little progress has been made to date.
President Irfaan Ali; Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Dr. Keith Rowley; Glaston Browne, the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, and Prime Minister of Belize, John Antonio Briceño, who is also the Chairman of CARICOM were among the Heads of Government present at the opening ceremony of the inaugural Agro-Investment Forum and Expo being held under the theme “Invest in vision 25 by 2025.”
The CARICOM Secretary General, Dr. Carla Barnett was also present as well as Guyana’s Vice President, Bharrat Jagdeo and Minister of Agriculture, Zulfikar Mustapha.