Caribbean market must be high value specialised – President Ali
President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali has expressed the firm stance that the Caribbean market must be positioned as a high-value specialised one, leveraging its scale, strategic location, and competitive advantages.
Dr Ali highlighted several commodities including honey, spices, cocoa, coffee, corn, soya, and fresh fruits, which he said, hold significant value and can contribute to the region’s economic growth.
He was at the time addressing a virtual Regional Agri Forum Tuesday, where he stressed the distinction between agriculture and the broader ecosystem of highly integrated food production.
“When we speak about investment, we’re not speaking about charity. We’re speaking about creating a business and economic model that works…for the investor, for the people, and work for the country, in the context of what you want to achieve. And that context is food security and to create a high-value market.”
To realise these goals, the president outlined several key areas that require attention. Transport and logistics, for instance, have long been a significant challenge for international trade and regional food distribution.
He said there are immense opportunities in transforming the transport and logistics aspect of the food production system, particularly through the creation of a regional food hub.
By reengineering the existing network and investing in the necessary technology and infrastructure, the Caribbean region can establish efficient transport routes, reducing delivery times from Northern Brazil through the Caribbean to North America to just 72 hours, instead of three weeks.
Further, the Guyanese leader stressed the importance of investing in technology, particularly to address post-harvest losses and increase value-added production.
“And let me say this, the integrated food production system is changing. You don’t need 100 acres of land to produce x tonnes of potato. With technology, you can now produce the same amount of potato that you produce on 100 acres of land, on less than five acres of land. Resilience and sustainability as part of the investment parameter in this integrated food production system are important,” Dr. Ali added.
Meanwhile, another key priority in the region is to ensure greater participation of women and youth, which will open up numerous opportunities and benefits.
Right now, we have exposed ourselves because of the high food import bill. Seventy per cent of our food is being imported into the region. We have exposed ourselves to the vulnerability of high inflation, the inflationary pressure, we have seen that and the impact it has on our economy, it setback our a social programme,” President Ali explained.
To this end, he said it is also crucial to address the volatility and price fluctuations in the global market.