Leaders of the two major producers of hydrocarbons in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) —Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago— announced on Thursday that significant headway was made on defining collaborative efforts that will be pursued to ensure food security in their respective states.
Specifically, Prime Minister of the twin-island Republic, Dr. Keith Rowley disclosed during a joint press conference in Port of Spain with Guyana’s President, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, that the two nations have devised a Food Development Plan.
The Trinidadian official said the plan will see collaborative efforts in the areas of agro-processing, livestock production, rice, coconut, shade houses for high value crops, aquaculture, corn and soya, and human resource development.
He revealed that Trinidadians have already been welcomed with open arms for training in Guyana. He said the same opportunity is also available to South America’s latest exploration and production oil star.
Guyana, he said, has also promised to provide 5,000 coconut plants to help Trinidad resuscitate its ailing coconut industry which was devastated by a variety of pests and diseases.
While the development of their respective energy sectors remains a matter of priority, Dr. Rowley said the inescapable reality facing the region is that it must strengthen its food systems or risk leaving scores of citizens in dark times. He said the urgency to address food security has been underscored by the supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war. The Trinidadian leader said both nations must do what is necessary to disrupt the comfort zones of some suppliers and bring an end to the “import what you eat” mentality.
President Ali agreed wholeheartedly as he noted that the region is faced with the greatest consequences of supply chain disruption because of the pandemic and the war in Europe. “Unless we are ready to make tough decisions and create an environment to develop capacity to address global challenges then prosperity will elude us. We have the capacity to be leaders on energy with Suriname involved… we must also be leaders in food security,” the Guyanese Head of State said.
President Ali noted that both CARICOM states will be working together to ensure they have the right policy framework in place to support local farmers and the regional trade systems and logistics framework to advance plans on food security. “We don’t have the luxury of time… this must happen now,” the President concluded.
Guyana has committed to use oil revenues to strengthen agriculture and boost food security for the 15 nations of CARICOM. President Ali is the lead Head of State on a regional initiative to reduce the region’s food import bill by 25% by 2025. Ali is currently in Trinidad for the nation’s Agri-Investment Forum and Expo.
Agriculture is a key sector the Ali administration in its drive to diversify Guyana’s economy to build resilience against oil price volatility.