Guyana seeks collaboration to maintain local, regional food security

-Minister Mustapha at high-level forum

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha says the Government is making major investments and is collaborating with regional counterparts to maintain food security both locally and in the Region.

Minister Mustapha was delivering the feature address on Tuesday at a National High-Level Dialogue, in preparation for the 2021 United Nations (UN) Food Systems Summit, scheduled for September.

Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Zulfikar Mustapha

The virtual forum brought together several stakeholders to address the areas needed to enhance the local food system.

“We believe these actions will achieve the long-term transformation of Guyana’s agri-food systems in an oil-based economy.  Transforming our food system in the context of an emerging oil-based economy is no easy task.

Indeed, volatile food prices, changing consumption patterns and socio-economic circumstances, external shocks, challenges with agricultural productivity and the potentially devastating effects of climate change, make it a particularly daunting challenge,” Minister Mustapha said.

President Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali had advanced the food production and food security agenda during the 32nd CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in February.

The President had highlighted areas including the removal of technical barriers to trade, the implementation of E-Agriculture Strategies, investments in production, research and development, measures to promote de-risking of the sector and the improvement of transport and logistics.  

Minister Mustapha said those strategies seek to address several key areas, which will drive the transformation of the agri-food system in Guyana and the Region.

He said to overcome challenges and achieve inclusive and sustainable growth and prosperity in Guyana, there must be a clear vision for Guyana’s food system and actionable solutions that will lead to a sustainable development pathway by 2030.

“Guyana and the Caribbean Region will be working to ensure that our input into the Food Systems Summit is aligned with our strategic objectives and development strategies, and informed by the solutions and strategies developed through national and regional-level dialogues,” he said.

Meanwhile, in his address, Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony says like the UN, Guyana sees the summit as a platform to meet the achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. 

Minister of Health, Hon. Dr. Frank Anthony

For there to be an abundance of wholesome diet, Dr. Anthony said Guyana is keen on developing concrete actions to transform the way the world produces and consumes foods.

He pointed out that several conditions could be considered as critical points in the lifecycle of persons locally. These includes, among other things, malnutrition, undernourishment, obesity, and overnutrition.

“…We should come up with plans of how we can intervene at appropriate points in the lifecycle of someone living in Guyana, and to do so I would recommend that we look at diet during pregnancy, with micronutrients supplementations…

But also, during pregnancy we should ensure that mothers have a good and balanced diet of nutritious foods. We should also look at infants and to ensure that we can provide the right policy, and enabling environment to allow mothers to exclusively breast feed,” Dr. Anthony said.

Stressing the importance for more plant-based diets, the Minister also recommended nutritional counselling for children to teach them to understand the necessity of consuming nutritious food.

Prime Minister, Hon. Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, Minister of Public Works, Hon. Bishop Juan Edghill and Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce, Hon. Oneidge Walrond also attended the meeting. Mr. Maximo Torero Cullen, Chief Economist at the Food and Agriculture Organization, Dr. Eduardo Trig, Special Advisor to the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and Mr. Paul Cheong, Chairman of the Private Sector Commission also participated in the discourse.

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