Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne has urged for greater collaboration between CARICOM member states as the Region looks to achieve food security and reduce dependency on imported goods. Prime Minister Browne who is currently in Guyana for the ‘historic’ Agri Investment Forum and Expo says this collaboration is long overdue.
He spoke of the ‘Jagdeo initiative’ that was developed in 2005, which sought to remove constraints to the development of agriculture in the Caribbean but was not implemented for the past 17 years. This he explained resulted in the region’s own suffering, “Let us learn from this experience" According to the Antiguan Prime Minister, achieving food security is imperative to avoid consequences of future challenges. However, if CARICOM has to succeed in achieving food security and achieve a high standard of agri food production, "Infrastructure must be supported by an inclusive policy, to include continuous direct investment and a modernised legal framework which accounts for the required standards in quality of our products," he stated. In addition, he said it would be useful to all countries if there was a regional approach to matters such as lines of credit, crop insurance to purchase the produce from small farmers by contract.
PM Browne explained that their efforts are in vain if there is not an established means to transport and distribute the goods, "the regional approach is necessary to increase food production in all of our territories, but it is not sufficient to provide more food if we fail to establish the means to transport and distribute it.”
President Ali during his opening remarks revealed that the Government intends to develop a local fertiliser plant locally with the development of the gas-to-shore energy project; however, Antigua's Prime Minister believes this should be developed regionally.
“The present situation may be an opportunity for Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago to explore the possibility of utilising the gas capacity to strengthen and expand Trinidad’s existing facility so as to produce fertiliser to satisfy the region’s need [...] our region ought not to continue to be susceptible to external factors for fertiliser, if we have the capacity to cure it and we certainly do.”