Caribbean cannot continue importing what it can produce – Pres. Ali

Speaking to a room full of regional leaders at the opening of Guyana’s inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo, President Dr Irfaan Ali contended that the Caribbean cannot continue to import foods that it already can produce.

“We, the leaders of CARICOM, through this Agri-Investment Forum, must send a strong message. We must correct the imbalance…we are and we must be prepared to achieve the target 25 by 2025,” the Guyanese Head of State expressed.

He was referring the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) plan to reduce the region’s hefty food import bill by 25% by 2025.

“We cannot lose this momentum as a region. We cannot continue the importation of billions of dollars in products that we can produce right here locally,” President Ali affirmed.

Together, countries within the regional bloc have thrown support behind an agricultural agenda that will ultimately reduce imports and enabling a sense of self-sufficiency.

“Together, we are ready to move forward in every aspect of the food production system in this region from production to trade, to trade relations, to issues of markets, of barriers, every single issue, transport and logistics, every single issue is on the table because, we recognise if we cannot address these issues in a collective, multi-facetted manner, then we will not be able to bring the long-term solutions that are so critically required,” President Ali posited.

“There are many challenges facing us, all of which, we are working to resolve in partnership with the private sector in the areas of financing, logistics and transport, improving timely production, improving agro-processing, linking market to produce and most importantly, trade barriers that continue to haunt our efforts at working as a collective.”

Meanwhile, delivering remarks at the opening of the event, Premier of Monserrat Joseph Taylor-Farrell lamented that it is “absolutely embarrassing” that 85% of the food consumed by his country is imported from out of the region.

“It is embarrassing that 75% of the poultry product imports in my country comes from outside of the region,” he expressed.

“Indeed, we have been thought as a nation, as a people, that anything that is foreign is good and so we enjoy importing food from other places out of the region,” he added, noting that this culture needs to change.

However, he noted that the biggest problem is not producing the food, but getting it to the countries require it in the region.

“It is not that food is not available in some of our neighboring countries, it is getting the food where it is needed most,” Taylor-Farrell explained.

In this regard, he pledged his country’s support to working with CARICOM in achieving the 25 by 2025 vision. He underscored that everyone must work together.

“There is no need for all of us to produce everything. We must begin to specialise. If Belize is producing oranges, I don’t need to produce oranges, we need to specialise and seriously produce and get those produce out,” he explained.

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