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CARICOM's mainland the hope for regional food security

Published:Tuesday | October 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM
Shoppers at the Coronation Market in downtown Kingston. - File

Leading Caribbean agriculturist Dr Arlington Chesney, executive director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), has highlighted the opportunities the Caribbean's mainland territories such as Suriname, Guyana and Belize offer in the matter of food security.

"The region has set itself a target of 25 per cent food and nutrition security by 2015. But we can't do that as individual countries," Chesney said.

His comments came after a partnership arrangement between Guyana and Trinidad for the creation of a food-security facility with hopes of stimulating agricultural and livestock production, reducing dependence on foreign food imports, and stimulating, regionally, the drive for food security in CARICOM.

The announcement was made last week Monday by Trinidad & Tobago's new finance minister, Larry Howai, while presenting the 2013 national budget. Chesney said the principle behind the arrangement between Guyana and Trinidad was "a very good one".

CARICOM, with approximately 16 million inhabitants in its 15 member states, has an annual food import bill of more than US$4 billion.

A United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization study shows that, with the exception of Guyana, Belize and St Kitts and Nevis in the English-speaking Caribbean, no country has the required land mass to achieve 100 per cent food security.

Chesney said he welcomed the food-facility arrangement. He said it was important to note the land mass limitations of a majority of CARICOM countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, but said that Guyana and Suriname, with their abundant acreage, can play a crucial role in a collective regional initiative to respond to the challenge of food security.

Food security-related issues have long occupied the agenda of the region's countries. Suriname's OAS representative Niermala Hindori-Badrising recently noted that the issue of food security and access to food should be a priority in national and international policies, and that what was needed to solve this problem are regional and international cooperation, "and an obvious need to invest in agricultural technology."

Trinidad and Guyana's partnership is, therefore, being hailed as "good news" for farming communities, commercial sectors as well as consumers with a passion for Caribbean commodities.