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Guyana leads Task Force on Food Production to address regional trade barriers

Guyana has taken the lead of a Special Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Security established to advance CARICOM’s agri-food systems agenda.

Among priority areas is to address the complete removal of all technical barriers to trade, afford protection to regional enterprises and increase investment.

Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha who also serves as the Chairman of the Task Force hosted the inaugural meeting with Ministers of Agriculture from the ten participating CARICOM member states on Thursday.

During his address, Minister Mustapha said that objective of the task force is to guide the regional position towards the transformation of the agri-food system allowing for a significantly more resilient, wealth-generating, and food secure Region.

He said “the CARICOM Agri-Food System Strategy seeks to frontally address the complete removal of all technical barriers to trade, development of a CARICOM Cross Border Agri-Food Investment Strategy to support production corridors, accelerating the pace of finalizing and adopting of the CARICOM Investment Code, completion of the reform of the CET suspension and rule of origin regimes to afford protection to regional enterprises and to support the competitiveness of regional forms, implementation of E-Agriculture Strategy, development of measures to promote de-risking of the sector, improvement of transport and logistics and, investment in production, research and development.”

To achieve its goals, the Minister said an Implementation Plan with 36 broad policy areas has been articulated and selected priority sectors such as poultry, corn/soya bean, rice, beef pork, mutton, coconut, niche vegetables, fruits, and fruit juices, ginger turmeric have been identified to advance commercialization agenda of the regional food system.

The Ministerial Task Force comprises Agriculture Ministers and other officials from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bahamas, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.

At the meeting, Programme Manager, Agricultural and Agro-Industrial Development, CARICOM, Shaun Baugh discussed the implementation plan for the strategy. He said that the objective of the plan was to commercialise the Regional agri-food industry, with actual commencement of private sector production activities in priority sectors identified, within a three-year window.

In the short term and medium term, trade barriers were identified as a major constraint that will be addressed. The need for the development of an e-agriculture strategy as well as investments in production, research and development were classified as long-term areas that need to be addressed.

The Task Force will also work to engage the Regional Private Sector, foreign investors, international and regional institutional partners, and the Diplomatic Community with a view towards formulating effective partnerships to take the work forward.