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Cayman agriculture becoming force to be reckoned with - gov't minister

Published:Wednesday | October 26, 2016 | 10:00 AMChristopher Serju

SEVEN MILE BEACH, Grand Cayman:

The Cayman Islands on Monday served notice that its growing agriculture sector is on the way to achieving some measure of food security, even with some challenges.

Kurt Tibbetts, Cayman's minister of planning, lands, agriculture, housing and infrastructure, said, during the opening ceremony of Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016, that even though the size of his nation's agriculture sector is relatively small, it is fast becoming a force to be reckoned with.

"Family farms continue to prove themselves as having a successful business model, despite facing challenges in areas such as cost of production," he told participants at The Westin Hotel, pointing to the great diversity across farming enterprises, with varying levels of profitability. In fact, the agriculture minister, who is also a small farmer, offered a template for success.

Success in agriculture, he noted, is dependent on investment in time, energy, patience and, of course, funding.

But this is not enough, Tibbets declared.

"It also requires the adoption of a holistic value-chain approach across an entire spectrum. This would include the stages from planting to irrigation, to harvesting, processing, storage and transportation, all of which are vitally necessary to bring the farm to the table. Against this backdrop, the challenge for all of us in this room is to come up with the ways to attract that investment to grow jobs, to grow exports and to grow our economies, and with that objective in mind, our work at this conference takes on greater meaning," he said.

The 14th annual staging of Caribbean Week of Agriculture, which runs from October 24-28, is being hosted by an associate member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) for the first time. Of significance also is the wide representation with participants from Brazil, The Netherlands, New Zealand, as well as Pacific islands such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu.

'Investing in Food and Agriculture' is the theme for the event supported by the Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, with collaboration from the CARICOM Secretariat, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Develop-ment Institute, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

This is fitting for the British-ruled islands, according to Tibbets.

"The subject of investment is most appropriate for a conference that is being held in a jurisdiction such as this, which is well known for its provision of financial services.

The theme 'Investing in Food and Agriculture' signifies the importance of investment for both primary agriculture and the development of our food industry, and as such, it is a topic that has relevance to all of us. Like any other industry, agriculture requires sustained investment to flourish and to support continuous innovation within its realm.

"Capital must be sought from both domestic and overseas sources. Strategies and policies must demonstrate that the agriculture sector is vibrant and indeed valuable. Part of the deliberation throughout the week should, therefore, be focused on creating an environment that is attractive to investment and facilitates ongoing development, improves food security, and stimulates economic growth within our borders."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com