President Donald Ramotar told leaders at the Third Caricom-Mexico Summit that the Caribbean Community has identified agriculture as a priority area vital for food security and for maintaining the political stability of the Region.
Speaking at the Summit, which was held on Tuesday and Wednesday in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, Ramotar said he welcomed Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto’s announcement of his government’s financial contribution to the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture to support the improvement of the agriculture sector in Caricom member states.
Ramotar noted that despite many initiatives to stem this occurrence, Caricom was still a net importer of food with a food bill amounting to more than US$4b per year. He asserted that the Region needed a joint agricultural policy through which member states could complement each other and raise their production to reduce the vulnerability in the sector; in the process examining the many problems that have emerged and those that were emerging.
The president also spoke about the impact of climate change on agriculture, noting that since 2004 the number of days the Guyana Sugar Corporation had for land preparation has dropped from 120 to 80. According to a press release the Foreign Affairs Ministry, he said the Community must work on establishing easy access to each other’s market, though it is necessary to improve transportation links; maritime and air transportation. Attention must also be given to reducing the huge food subsidy by developed countries which is keeping recipient nations in a state of dependency.
Another challenge identified is making agriculture attractive to youth and expanding agro-processing. Ramotar opined that introducing more technology into the sector and investing in human resources would not only equip the farmer with modern tools but create jobs in an industry where additional skills would be required to produce value-added products.
He also said it is time that the Community considers some form of division of labour in the agriculture sector to broaden the products that the region could make available to its peoples. A reliable and affordable supply of electricity is vital to this undertaking, Ramotar said, and noted that the Region could benefit from Mexico’s experience and expertise in this regard.
He then acknowledged that Guyana and Mexico enjoy good relations and pointed out that Mexican company Qualfon is the largest single private and foreign employer in Guyana.
Ramotar then expressed his appreciation to President Peña Nieto for the warm welcome and hospitality that he and his team were accorded. The president was accompanied by Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Tourism Minister (ag) Irfaan Ali and Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, Director General at the Foreign Ministry.