… Task Force looks to transform agri-food system
With Guyana once again leading on agriculture in Caricom, a Special Ministerial Task Force on Food Production and Food Safety has been established to advance Caricom’s agri-food systems agenda.
President Dr. Dr. introduced the Food Production and Food Safety Agenda. Mohamed Irfaan Ali during Caricom’s 32nd Heads of Government Meeting last February. CARICOM subsequently approved the agenda and agreed to establish the taskforce to implement the strategy.
Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, who is also the Chairman of the Special Ministerial Task Force, held the opening meeting with Agriculture Ministers from the ten Caricom member states that participated on Wednesday.
During his address, Mustapha said the task force’s objective is to lead the regional position towards transforming the agri-food system, allowing for a much more resilient region, wealth production and food security.
“Transforming a food system is at the heart of our aspirations and mandate. Therefore, our activities over the next few years would aim for this goal. In particular, the Caricom Agri-Food System Strategy seeks to directly address the removal of all technical barriers to trade, develop the Caricom Cross-Border Agri-Food Investment Strategy to support production corridors, accelerating the completion and adoption of CARICOM Investment Code, complete reform of suspension regimes and CET origin rule to protect regional enterprises, and to support regional form competitiveness, implement E-Agriculture Strategy, develop measures to promote de-risk sector, improve transport and logistics, and investment in production, research and development, ”he said.
To this end, the minister said, an Action Plan with 36 broad policy areas has been expressed. Priority preference sectors such as poultry, corn / soya beans, rice, beef, pork, mutton, coconuts, specialty vegetables, fruits, and fruit juices, ginger and turmeric have also been identified to advance the commercialization agenda of the food system regionally.
The Ministerial Task Force consists of Ministers of Agriculture and other officials from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, The Bahamas, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
During the meeting, the Task Force also reviewed, revised and accepted the Terms of Reference (TOR) developed by a team of technical officers from the CARICOM Secretariat. The TOR outlines the objectives, purpose, membership and governance of the task force.
During his presentation, Program Manager, Agricultural and Agri-Industrial Development, Caricom, Shaun Baugh, discussed the action plan for the strategy. He stated that the objective of the plan was to commercialize the Regional agri-food industry and in effect set out Private Sector production activities in priority sectors, within a three year window. He also discussed several broad policy measures and reforms required to support the commercialization of the Region’s Agri-Food System.