Tremendous progress made toward achieving 25% reduction in food imports by 2025 – President Ali

His Excellency, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali said that there has been significant progress in terms of achieving the target of reducing the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) US$5 billion food import bill by 25 percent by the year 2025.

The president was speaking during an interview with the Caribbean Media Corporation-DIME Network in Paramaribo, Suriname, on the sideline of the 43rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM.

President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali being interviewed by Kimberly Ramkhalawan of the Caribbean Media Corporation-DIME Network in Paramaribo, Suriname.

Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in CARICOM, and is spearheading the regional body’s quest of reducing its food import bill.

The president said that an overarching strategy was developed that incorporated all the stakeholders, including farmers, the private sector, women and youth within the region. The strategy, he noted, outlines specific actions that are required by each state in achieving the 25 by 2025 goal.

An integral part of the plan is transportation and logistics. President Ali said that at the CARICOM meeting great strides were made in developing the architecture to bring the transportation plan into action. There was also a commitment to advance the work to secure financing to operationalise the plans as quickly as possible.

Another important aspect is removing the barriers within the region itself. The Guyanese Head of State said, “There is a clear commitment from all the leaders that the time for discussing and talking about these barriers is over, and we are now working on a strategic time – bound approach, and the removal of these barriers.”

President Ali reiterated that financing is an integral aspect of the plan, and there has been tremendous commitment in that area to advance the region’s food security strategy.

“Not only financing, but how do we create sustainable financial models that speak to the existing need? Incorporate the future dynamics of food production itself? We have the history of technology, technology transfer, research and development,” he explained.

The president noted that the region’s food security plan focuses on the creation of an agro-business model that incorporates young people, and allows them the option and understanding that agricultural production is profitable, and can create opportunities for them to accelerate their careers and independence.

“So, it allows us to bring along the next generation of CARICOM nationals who will be part of the food production system.”

Importantly, he noted, the model developed will ensure distributors understand that the drive to food production is not a displacement for them, but the need for them to advance their own business models, and to be part of the production process which will ultimately generate more wealth for them.