Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) issues and other hindrances to the ease of trade in the Caribbean Community (Caricom), are being discussed at the level of the Ministerial Task Force on food security, including possible solutions like a common trade law for the region.
This was revealed by Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, the current Chair of that Ministerial Task Force. In an interview with this publication, Mustapha spoke of the importance of tearing down these barriers, if the vision of a 25 per cent reduction of the Caricom food import bill by 2025 is to be realised.
According to Mustapha, it is important that a level playing field exists across the Caribbean, when it comes to the export of produce. He noted that each country has a different rule when it comes to phytosanitary standards.
“What we are doing at the Ministerial Task Force, is to ensure that first of all, if we want to reduce the food import bill of the Caribbean then we have to amend the laws in various countries so that we can have common laws to govern these regulations in other countries.”
“So, we’re discussing that. At the Ministerial Task Force, for example, we are looking at some of the loopholes to amend it so we can be level with other countries. Likewise, other countries are doing similar.”
Minister Mustapha was optimistic that by the time the objectives of reducing the food import bill by 25 per cent are realised, common or similar phytosanitary standards can be implemented throughout the Caribbean.
“We’re hoping that by the time we get to that period we’re talking about, in reducing the food import bill, we can have similar phytosanitary standards across the Caribbean. Where we can trade easily and freely and we will not have these barriers that affect trade within the Caribbean. That’s by 2025.”
“We’re working assiduously to get it done. As a matter of fact, we have cited that as one of the main barriers for trade within the Caribbean. So, we’re hoping we can get these common regulations in all the countries in Caricom.”
Referencing the fact that 98 per cent of poultry products to the Caribbean come from overseas markets, Mustapha stressed the need to improve inter-regional trade.
He pointed to Guyana’s efforts to expand its poultry industry.
“We need almost 60 million eggs annually, right here in Guyana. If you look around the Caribbean, you can see the number of eggs that are needed. So those are the things we’re working on for investors,” the Agriculture Minister also said.
Last year, President Dr Irfaan Ali had declared that his Government would be pursuing an aggressive campaign to dismantle regional barriers to agricultural trade and that in the next four years, with the assistance of more diversified crops, Guyana would aim to reduce Caricom’s food import bill by 25 per cent.
Guyana will meanwhile be hosting the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC) from May 19 to 21, to bring together producers, importers and exporters, investors and other players to promote and improve the region’s productivity and resilience of its agri-food systems. The event will be held under the theme: “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025”.
The two principal objectives of the event are matching bankable agricultural projects with available private and public financing, and making potential investors and other stakeholders aware of new and emerging opportunities in Caricom agriculture, including technological and logistical solutions.
It will focus on specific areas in the food value chain including: primary production (farm and field); agro processing (including post-harvesting and marketing); logistics (distribution, shipping, air cargo), and infrastructural development, including in the areas of finance and technology.