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Holness bats for food security at FAO conference

Published:Wednesday | March 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
Prime Minister Andrew Holness


Western Bureau:

Prime Minister Andrew Holness yesterday outlined three areas of action, which he described as critical to combating hunger, food security, malnutrition, rural development, climate resilience and sustainable agriculture in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Holness outlined the three areas while giving the keynote address at the official opening ceremony for the four-day 35th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which concludes today at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

According to Holness, a core component of improving the well-being and quality of life of citizens in the region is food security. He noted that for the first time in two decades, hunger is on the rise in the region. He also argued that sustained growth and development could not be achieved in the region with that trend.

"I would like to posit three areas of action that are critical as we seek to address hunger and malnutrition, rural development and climate resilience, and sustainable agriculture," said Holness. "The first (action) is that of energy security and food security. It is a well-known fact that high energy cost is a barrier to increased growth and competitiveness in many sectors including agriculture."

In explaining the negative effect of issues - such as climate change, high energy cost and increasing food import bills, on the region's food security - the Prime Minister argued that the region was at a critical juncture that required the time to plan, address the challenges, and identify solutions.

The prime minister's suggestion, which came against the background of the main focus of the four-day conference that is focused on regional issues such as hunger, food security and obesity, tied energy security and food security together.

Holness said Jamaica was currently pursuing efforts to develop a diverse energy ecosystem that was environmentally friendly and affordable. He added that the possibility within the agricultural sector greatly increased, when electricity and other energy related cost were less volatile, which was particularly important for rural development.


'Agri sector must embrace technology'


Prime Minister Andrew Holness has said that the agricultural sector must embrace technology, noting that there was still heavy reliance on manual processes in agriculture across the region. He posited that the region must continue to appreciate the exponential value that could be created when agricultural techniques and processes were infused with technology.

Holness identified technology as one of three actions required to address hunger and malnutrition and promote sustainable agriculture. Technology, he argued, was particularly important in the face of climate change and its effects being experienced across the region.

"The third action is promoting partnerships to maximise food production," said Holness. "As we seek to modernise our food production processes to address hunger and malnutrition, to promote rural development, and to be climate resilient for greater and lasting impact, the power of partnerships is a necessity."

The prime minister opined that with tourism a significant industry in many of the economies of the region, the need is there to improve the linkages with that industry and others, including agriculture. He said the region is at a crossroad in terms of food security, but the emerging trend of rising hunger, obesity, and non-communicable diseases must be reversed.