President, Dr Irfaan Ali is of the firm conviction that the CARICOM Region has the competitive advantage to position its food market as high-value and specialised.

With a consensus across the region on the need to enhance food security, the Headof State said efforts could be made to overhaul the system and revolutionise food production.

He recently told investors and key enablers virtually at the Caribbean Agri-Food Investors Conference that countries need to create a structure, where agriculture production is one component of a “highly integrated food production system”.

The region, he noted, needs to think big and envision an ecosystem of development, which will amplify the production of traditional crops, enhance the growth of non-traditional crops and facilitate their rapid movement while lowering their overall production cost.

He also listed the proximity of the region to the North American market and highlighted the potential of the production of fish and shrimp (via aquaculture), honey, spices, cocoa, coffee, barley, corn, and soya, among local fruits and vegetables and non-traditional crops.

The President said, “How do we use these opportunities to create value, expand the market and produce high-value crops? Because it must be targeted, high-value crops that we’re looking at, whether it’s the very strawberries that you’re importing, the grapes that you’re importing, whether it’s the spices, green leafy vegetables, broccoli or cauliflower.”

The President also explained that historically there has been “a very narrow view of agriculture that limits it to people working in a field”. He said that agriculture has changed and the opportunity is available to invest, modernise and transform.

“We’re speaking about creating a business and economic model that works; that works for the investor, works for the people and works for the country in the context of what we want to achieve, and that context is food security and to create a high-value market.”


The President also explained that one of the critical issues in creating the integrated system and high-value market is transport and logistics. This, he said, has been the “greatest bugbear of interregional trade”.

“So there are tremendous opportunities in the transport and logistics aspect of the food production system, beginning from primary production to highly specialised value-added production.”

To address this, the President suggested that agricultural opportunities available in northern Brazil be examined and that the food production system be re-engineered to utilise the potential of the Portuguese-speaking nation, which can be moved through Guyana and into the Caribbean and North America.

With this option, the President said, food would be able to get to the Caribbean and further up north through Guyana in less than 72 hours. This, he explained, is only possible if there are tangible investments in the transportation, logistics and food hub ecosystem that are part of an integrated system. The existing transport system for food moving from northern Brazil to North America takes almost three weeks.

“That is the first positioning I want to put to you, what constitutes the regional food hub, the infrastructure that must come in supporting that food hub, supporting the transport and logistics opportunity, the distribution opportunity, the value-added opportunity that will come.”

The President also spoke of the need for investments in technology and modernised agriculture, training and development, infrastructure, and sustainable and resilient systems.

Guyana currently holds lead responsibility for agriculture, agricultural diversification and food security in the CARICOM Quasi-Cabinet.


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