The war in Ukraine and climate change have contributed to soaring food prices. From May 19-22, 2022, the Agriculture Investment Forum was held in Guyana. Delegations from several member countries of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, were present. Guyanese President Irfaan Ali has announced that his country’s food self-sufficiency is a priority.
In Guyana, agricultural research focuses on the cultivation of wheat. Twenty varieties of this cereal are being studied in the country’s agricultural research centres. Intensive maize production is also a priority.
For Guyana, there is urgency. 30% of wheat grown in the world is planted in Russia and Ukraine. The consequence of the war between these two countries is the inexorable increase in the price of this essential product.
For 3 days, the President of Guyana welcomed the leaders of the Caribbean countries to the investment forum in agriculture.
They were able to meet farmers, agro-processors, and investors in order to restructure the agricultural sector in their respective countries.
Imported food is overpriced
In the Bahamas, nearly 1 billion euros are spent on importing foodstuffs every year. The agricultural sector represents only 1% of the GDP. Food safety is a concern.
In Montserrat, a British territory with only 5,000 inhabitants, 75% of the chicken meat is imported and 85% of the food consumed there comes from elsewhere.
It is frankly shameful.Joseph Farrell, Minister of Montserrat
For its part, Guyana imports 30 million euros of food products each year. With an area of 214,970 km², only 8% of the land is cultivated.
By 2025, the President of Guyana wants to reduce the region’s food import bill by 25%, which currently stands at 6 billion euros.
Investments in soybeans, aquaculture, livestock and fertilizer production are all under consideration. Guyana wants to be able to export its productions to neighboring countries in the Caribbean.
Customs taxes applied to food products grown in the CARICOM region must be eliminated.
We have a responsibility to change our practices. If we don’t remove trade barriers, I don’t know how this plan to increase agricultural production will succeed.Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados
President of Guyana, Irfaan Ali with Caribbean counterparts on the ground at the International Forum on Agriculture.
Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister of Dominica notes that it is easier for his farmers to export avocados and ginger to Europe and North America than to the countries of the Caribbean.
The free movement of agricultural workers in the region should be allowed. Every year thousands of seasonal workers leave the Caribbean to work in Canada but they cannot do the same thing in the region.
Agriculture, the former mainstay of the region’s economies, was abandoned after the collapse of the international sugar and banana market. Tourism has become the preferred investment.
Today, food is expensive, the Caribbean is obliged to restart the agricultural sector, too long marginalized, to feed its populations.