PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Friday October 12, 2012 – With approximately 16 million inhabitants in its 15 member states, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has an annual food import bill of more than US$4 billion.
And with the exception of Guyana, Belize, and St Kitts and Nevis in the English-speaking Caribbean, no country has the required land mass to achieve 100 percent food security, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization study.
Against this backdrop, Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Dr Arlington Chesney has highlighted the opportunities the Caribbean’s mainland territories such as Guyana, Suriname and Belize offer in the matter of food security.
“The region has set itself a target of 25 percent food and nutrition security by 2015. But we can’t do that as individual countries,” the leading Caribbean agriculturalist said.
Dr Chesney’s comments followed a partnership arrangement between Guyana and Trinidad for the creation of a food-security facility with hopes of stimulating agricultural and livestock production, reducing dependence on foreign food imports, and stimulating, regionally, the drive for food security in CARICOM.
The announcement of the partnership arrangement was made last week by Trinidad and Tobago’s Finance Minister Larry Howai while presenting the 2013 national budget.
Chesney said the principle behind the arrangement between Guyana and Trinidad was “a very good one”.
The CARDI director said it was important to note the land mass limitations of a majority of CARICOM countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, but said that Guyana and Suriname, with their abundant acreage, can play a crucial role in a collective regional initiative to respond to the challenge of food security.
Trinidad and Guyana’s partnership is consequently being hailed as “good news” for farming communities and commercial sectors as well as consumers.
Food security-related issues have long occupied the agenda of the region’s countries. Suriname’s Organization of American States (OAS) representative Niermala Hindori-Badrising recently noted that the issue of food security and access to food should be a priority in national and international policies, and that what was needed to solve this problem are regional and international cooperation, “and an obvious need to invest in agricultural technology.”