A breakthrough for regional food security?

The length of time that it took to conclude the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) setting out the parameters for an initiative designed to enhance T&T food security can perhaps be excused on the grounds that the MOU had to do with making large tracts of local land available to the government of the twin-island Republic. And, of course, there would have been other issues governing the terms and conditions under which the land is to be used.

Now that the MOU is done and dusted, however, we are entitled to expect that within a matter of a few months, at the most, the actualisation of the food security initiative will kick in seriously insofar as we will see evidence of activity associated with the creation of infrastructure for the agricultural pursuits identified under the MOU’s umbrella.

Even at this stage, there may be some hurdles to cross and those, in some instances, could be medium rather than short-term ones. A report in last Monday’s issue of this newspaper alluded to some local challenges like drainage and irrigation, transportation difficulties associated particularly with the movement of perishables, difficulties associated with access to farmlands and other logistical problems. We make reference to these challenges only to make the point that, hopefully, our new relationship with hard-nosed T&T businessmen supported by a government that would be keen to make the initiative work will be more than sufficient incentive for the Government of Guyana to move with haste to create – in every possible respect – an enabling environment.

It would have been good to know by the time of the signing of the MOU exactly where the tracts of land are but that too can, perhaps, wait for just a little while longer. What cannot wait is evidence that there is, indeed, a serious bilateral food security arrangement between Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago to which both countries are seriously committed and which can have a knock-on effect on other Caricom countries.

From all that we have been told there are likely to be significant investments from the private sector in the twin-island Republic in what, in some cases, will be mega-farm initiatives. Conceivably, the spin-offs will include the creation of agro-processing ventures, some amount of transfer of upgraded agricultural technology and significant numbers of jobs available to Guyanese in the agriculture and related sectors. The Trinidadian investors might also be expected to experiment with other crops and we are told by Agriculture Minister Dr Leslie Ramsammy himself that if all goes well the acreage of land occupied by the Trinidadian investors could increase tenfold over a period of time.

Of course we must hope that, over time, the Trinidadians continue to be attracted to the idea of farming/investing in Guyana and that in the true spirit of community, they continue to see the project as an investment in the strengthening of the Caribbean Single Market.

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