CARICOM heads laud President Ali’s drive to lower regional food costs
His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali received high commendations by CARICOM Heads, on Wednesday, for his aggressive approach towards reducing the regional food import bill, and creating opportunities to spur further investments within Caribbean nations.
Barbados’ Prime Minister, Hon. Mia Mottley said Dr. Ali, who leads the agriculture food agenda in CARICOM, was able to deliver in the face of the devastating pandemic over the last year.
She was speaking at the press briefing following the 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government, held in Belize on March 1–2.
The Prime Minister commended the Guyanese Head of State for leading discussions on the local cultivation of high value crops including broccoli and cauliflower that are largely imported into the region.
President Ali is spearheading the Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Programme (AIEP) in Guyana, which focuses on the efficient and sustainable production of high-value crops, including cauliflower, broccoli, and carrot.
“In addition to that, he then took three products for which there is great potential for value added. There is a lot of palm oil for example imported into the region. There is no reason why we shouldn’t be using coconut oil, which in any event has particular health benefits.
So, when you take all of these things into consideration, we not only want to thank President Ali, but we want to urge the region to move with absolute dispatch in being able to get the investment opportunities,” the Prime Minister said.
According to the Barbadian leader, the motive is to reduce food costs and establish avenues for Caribbean people to consume more locally grown food.
President Ali has been proactive in pushing an aggressive food agenda to ensure Guyana and the region’s food import bill is reduced significantly. He believes that in order for regional food security and resilience to be achieved, governments must think about transforming their food systems.
The President has been keen on improving food systems and has been creating a pathway to enhance the overall development in the region.
He said Guyana does not take its responsibility lightly and remains committed to “lead from the front.”
President Ali also believes that the Caribbean has the resources to ensure greater food security and should take advantage of the economic opportunities.
The Head of State stands committed to working with CARICOM member states in achieving the target of reducing food importation by 25 percent by the year 2025.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Antonio Briceño, who is the Chairman of CARICOM, also praised the Guyanese leader for undertaking a study with Caribbean Ministers of Agriculture, to ascertain what products can be grown in the region, and affordably exported across borders.
“It’s a comprehensive study…It can address the issue of food security. There is a market of $6 billion in CARICOM and if we can capture the 25 percent by 2025 and then push to capture more of that market and keep the money within the region, it will create a lot of opportunities, more jobs and boost the economy within the region as opposed to the economics in other areas,” he explained.
The two-day 33rd Intersessional Meeting of the 15-member Caribbean states delved into a number of issues including agriculture development, food and nutrition, COVID-19 and its economic impact on Caribbean nations, and the robust implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).