Tuesday, 21 May 2013
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GPL will need $5B subvention in face of pay hike-D... » The Guyana Power and Light (GPL) will be placed in...
|President to spearhead agri talks with key regional stakeholders|
– perturbed at ‘huge’ food import bill
PRESIDENT Donald Ramotar, in his capacity as head for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), plans to lead talks with key regional stakeholders on priority actions in agriculture. Optimistic that the region has the resources and the potential to curtail the alarmingly high bill that it pays on food imports on an annual basis, President Ramotar was perturbed that the obstacle remains unresolved.
He described the challenge as “an indictment on the entire region”, while delivering his debut address to CARICOM leaders and other dignitaries gathered in St. Lucia for the Thirty-Third Regional Conference of Heads of Government.
“Our food import bill is huge, even though we have most of the resources to guarantee our own food security and supply. The more than US$3B that leaves our region each year could be put to productive use to improve our people’s lives,” President Ramotar said.
In the recent past, efforts to address the challenge saw the crafting of a CARICOM Regional Policy for Food and Nutrition Security by the CARICOM Secretariat, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations.
Specialists in the field of agriculture, trade, health, nutrition, and representatives of regional institutions, including the Caribbean Agricultural Research Development Institute (CARDI) and the University of the West Indies (UWI), and international partners were recruited for the task.
At that forum, a proposal was made to maximise the regional content in food consumption, increase the use of local inputs feeds and fertilizers, and increased productivity of land, labour and capital in the agricultural sector.
President Ramotar, in his address yesterday pressed for self sufficiency and greater consideration of the Caribbean’s regional transformation programme, better known as the Jagdeo initiative.
“The Jagdeo initiative could encourage production and productivity, strengthen our competitiveness and secure better market access,” President Ramotar said.
The initiative was presented by President Ramotar’s forerunner, Bharrat Jagdeo, to address constraints to reposition and develop the agriculture sector in the region, and practical interventions at both the regional and national levels
It requires the involvement of agriculture stakeholders across the Region, through their respective agriculture ministries and private sector teams.
The Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture was key to discussions at the 12th Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads held in Guyana at a time when there was growing concerns about the rising cost of food and fuel throughout the Region.
At the World Food Summit in Rome in 2009, Mr. Jagdeo had warned about the Region being seduced by the importation of cheap food and paying less attention to food security.
Guyana’s agriculture sector remains a major contributor to the economy, and cognisant of its contribution to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), government has been working to promote its Agriculture Diversification Programme.
To further expand and promote sub-sector development, moving away from the traditional sectors, rice and sugar, $1B has been allocated this year to further advance the diversification thrust.
In the recent past, efforts to promote agriculture have seen the launch of the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) to aid in the promotion of agricultural health and food safety and trade in agricultural products.
President Ramotar urged the support of member states to expedite the functions of the CAHFSA.
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