CARICOM Agriculture Ministers meet in Georgetown
Ministers of Agriculture of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will meet in Georgetown Thursday and Friday for a Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture. The Meeting will be held at the CARICOM Secretariat.
Among the matters the discussions will focus on are commodities which the Community had identified as priorities: roots and root tubers, especially cassava; small ruminants; herbs and spices, especially hot peppers; and fisheries.
With respect to cassava, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has determined that the tuber has the potential to replace up to 50 per cent or 400,000 metric tonnes of wheaten flour in CARICOM Member States. It can also substitute up to 40 per cent of the corn in poultry rations without adverse effects, as well as a portion of other animal feeds; can be more widely consumed as a healthy, staple food, and, on its own, can address about five per cent of the Region’s Food Import Bill.
Regional agriculture stakeholders are also pursuing the economic viability of Member States – especially Guyana, Suriname, and Belize – boosting their production of meat, hence the focus on small ruminants.
The fisheries and aquaculture sector has been identified as an important source of food and nutrition security, foreign exchange earnings, employment and livelihood opportunities in the Region. About 338 000 people are directly employed in the fisheries sub-sector in the Region. The sub-sector accounted for some $250M of exports in 2012.
Organisations including the FAO, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Caribbean Agri-Business Association (CABA) are playing lead roles in the quest to boost the production of these commodities.
Also high on the meeting’s agenda is discussion on progress made by the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) since it was operationalised in October last year with the recruitment of a Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Lindley Collins. CAHFSA is the agency tasked with strengthening agricultural health and food safety and ensuring the highest standards for trade in agricultural products. CAHFSA’s operations are vital to fulfilling the provisions of the Treaty of Chaguaramas which calls for the establishment of effective Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) regime and for the harmonisation of laws, administrative practices and procedures in respect of agriculture. Among CAHFSA’s tasks are developing technical measures and protocols required to achieve SPS certification for agricultural trade. CAHFSA will also devise arrangements to reduce the use of SPS measures as non-tariff barriers, including undue administrative delays in the clearance of perishable agricultural goods as restrictions to agricultural trade.
Agriculture and climate-change related matters, agri-business development, the needs of small farmers with respect to the Regional market infrastructure are among the other issues the Ministers will address during their two-day meeting.
Agriculture Ministers of the Region usually meet in early October during the annual Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA). The CWA will not be held this year.