Participating Member States, Regional Organizations meet to discuss progress made by Ministerial Task Force

On Friday, during the fourth sitting of the Special Ministerial Taskforce (MTF), which was set up to advancing the agri-food system in CARICOM, the participating Member States and Regional Organizations discussed progress made on several decisions that were taken so far.

Agriculture Minister, Honourable Zulfikar Mustapha, who also serves as Chair of the MTF, while delivering opening remarks said, following the last MTF meeting, a number of important activities had been undertaken.

“We saw the successful hosting of Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA), which as we know was the first virtual CWA hosted by the region due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Be that as it may, the CWA was very well attended and generated much positive discussion throughout the region. The COTED Ministerial was convened and delivered a lot of important decisions related to the work of this task force,” Minister Mustapha said.

As Chair of the taskforce, Minister Mustapha also told attendees that, as part of his mandate, a number of engagements were facilitated through the CARICOM Secretariat with key stakeholders particularly on issues surrounding financing for priority commodities. 

Some of the areas identified for discussion by the MTF during the meeting were the resuscitation of the Regional Transportation Commission and investment opportunities for coconut in the region.

While speaking on matters relating to the Regional Transportation Committee, Representative from the Transport Division at the CARICOM Secretariat, Dr. Pauline Yearwood, said that steps have so far been taken to resuscitate the regional transport commission.

“The regional transportation is yet to be fully constituted but this is expected to be completed no later than the 24th November 2021. The undertaking of a review and amendment of the initial list of respective nominees proposed for the commission with the objective of establishing a new list comprising individuals, organizations, and institutions who and which can engage the private sector at the highest level in the furtherance of the work of the commission and attract investment for the development of the regional transport sector,” Dr. Yearwood noted.

Should this Commission be resuscitated, CARICOM National would benefit from a more competitive transportation industry.

Additionally, members of the MTF were invited to identify and nominate a representative for the constituting of the Regional Transport Committee.

From its inception, the MTF had identified coconut as a priority commodity for growth in the CARICOM region.

Deputy Manager for Resource Mobilization at CARDI, Tristan Alvarez said that the coconut industry is projected to see significant growth by 2026.

“Coconuts been identified as a priority commodity by the MTF, but also COTED-agriculture, which led to the formation of the Coconut Commodity Group. The coconut industry is a multibillion, multiproduct market characterized by stability, growth, and innovation areas expected to grow from approximately US $11.5 million in 2018 to US $31.1 billion in 2026,” Mr. Alvarez said.

CARDI, for years, has served as the lead agency for the developing the Regional coconut sector.

Member States expressed satisfaction with the progress made thus far by the MTF even in the midst of a global pandemic.