Agriculture is Alive and Well – CWA 2021 launched

over 50 exhibitors from across the region to participate in virtual four-day exhibition

Last Wednesday, CARICOM hosted a virtual launch for the 16th Caribbean Week of Agriculture, which is being observed under the theme “Transforming our Food Systems”.

The four-day event, which is scheduled to run from October 4th to 8th, will involve a series of high-level meetings, virtual trade shows, exhibitions, marketplaces, and workshops aimed at highlighting and improving agriculture in the region.

While delivering the keynote address, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha said this year’s programme, given the present constraints brought on by the ongoing global pandemic – COVID-19, suggests a clear intent to showcase opportunities for practical technology-oriented solutions. Minister Mustapha also said that the launch demonstrates the crucial role agriculture occupies in the region.

CWA 2021 marks the return of this important Regional event from its longest absence on the Regional calendar since its inception in 1999. Notwithstanding the obvious challenges posed by the pandemic, the fact that CWA 2021 is being launched today, is indicative of the commitment, determination, innovativeness, and the acknowledgment of the importance and the crucial role and place, that agriculture occupies in this Region be it in food and nutrition security or employment and income generation. The message is clear, not even a pandemic will stop us from doing what is necessary for the advancement of regional agriculture,” Minister Mustapha said.

While offering an overview of the planned events, Assistant Secretary-General of Trade and Economic Integration at the CARICOM Secretariat, Joseph Cox said this year’s CWA was founded upon the establishment of strategic alliances and partnerships involving both the public and private sectors and including the international development partner community.

“In that regard, the 16th CWA is not a Caribbean Secretariat idea, it is not an IICA idea, it is not an FAO idea, it is not a CARDI idea. It’s everyone’s idea. Although the theme for the 16th CWA is ‘Transforming our Food Systems’, it functionally operates with two critical sub-themes. Agriculture production resilience and sustainability and Food and Nutrition Security. In this regard whereas COVID19 has exposed the fragility in our regional food systems, including supply chain shocks, vulnerability to international price volatility, and input source supply concentration, the pandemic has also created numerous opportunities,” Mr. Cox said.

While referencing Guyana’s leading role in Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification, and Food Security in the CARICOM, and being Chairman of the special Ministerial Taskforce for Food Production and Food Security, Minister Mustapha said the theme of CWA 2021 was aligned with the thrust of the Special Ministerial Taskforce.

“The main objective of the Special Ministerial Taskforce is to provide guidance on the transformation of the agri-food system, that is resilient, provides attractive and sustainable wealth creation opportunities for potential investors, and guarantees food and nutrition security for the Region. We recognize that this desired transformation of the Regional Agri-Food System towards full commercialisation requires the active participation of the regional private sector. In this regard, the Special Ministerial Taskforce collaborates closely with the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO), an Associate Institution of the Caribbean Community invited by the Conference of Heads of Government to engage, in a formal and structured manner, with the Organs of the Caribbean Community in an effort to secure the full implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Over the last months, the Special Ministerial Taskforce has been proactive in initiating dialogue with regional and strategic entities on the subject particularly of the de-risking of the regional agricultural sector.  In this regard the MTF has received presentations on a possible Agricultural Insurance Product for the Region by a regional company pioneering such a product in a Member State and outlining the elements for the establishment of a Regional Agricultural Insurance Product, and proposed Sustainable Caribbean Finance Facility for the establishment of a $10B Sustainable Financing Facility for the Caribbean to support Agricultural Investments by 2035,” Minister Mustapha said.

He also said a sub-committee is currently being established, specifically to address opportunities for establishing a similar agricultural insurance product on a regional scale, and for advancing the proposal for the Sustainable Caribbean Finance Facility.

The CWA virtual events will have over 50 exhibitors with exhibits covering the many areas of agro-business, from primary production, manufacturing, agro-tourism, agricultural technology, agriculture education, retail, and distribution. The technical webinars will also include discussions on African Swine Fever, climate change, digital agriculture, livestock production, smart agriculture, finance, intra-regional trade opportunities, and the growing economy.

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