CARICOM Member States, since the establishment of the Ministerial Taskforce (MTF) by H.E. President Dr Irfaan Ali, have been working towards the establishment of a sustainable agriculture insurance plan.
Over the last ten years, more Small Island Developing States within CARICOM have been devastatingly affected by the impacts of climate change. Within the last decade, there have been increased instances of flooding, drought, and volcanic eruptions which have resulted in many economies in the region being adversely affected.
Last year, Guyana experienced one of the most devastating floods in the country’s history which left almost 90% of the country’s agriculture sector completely destroyed. Other countries like Suriname, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago have also suffered from natural disasters as a result of climate change.
During the 8th CARICOM Ministerial Taskforce (MTF) meeting, which was held today, regional officials discussed the progress made in establishing sustainable agriculture insurance products in vulnerable member states.
Prior to today’s meeting, Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, in his role as Chairman of the MTF, outlined the need for the development of such a product given the fact that the impacts of climate change have, in recent years, proven to pose several economic challenges for vulnerable CARICOM countries.
While referencing Guyana’s most recent experience in 2021, Minister Mustapha had called the MTF to work towards engaging regional financial insurance institutions on the possibility of developing agriculture insurance products geared at strengthening the region’s disaster recovery efforts.
Last October, during the launch of Caribbean Week of Agriculture, Minister Mustapha said that the government was working to promote the idea of establishing agriculture insurance in Guyana and in the region.
“The MTF has received presentations on two areas which included a possible agriculture insurance product for the region by a regional company pioneering such a product in a member state and outlining the elements for the establishment of a regional agricultural insurance product. This is very critical for us, in the Caribbean, to implement such a product and ensure that our farmers are targeted,” Minister Mustapha said.
The MTF, through its Agriculture Insurance Technical working group, has been engaging various regional financial institutions on how a regional insurance product can be developed and introduced in the Member States.
During the meeting earlier today, Mr. Shaun Bough, Programme Manager, Agricultural and Agro-Industrial Development at the CARICOM Secretariat disclosed that the MTF’s Agriculture Insurance Technical working group recently met with representatives of GraceKennedy Limited, one of the Caribbean’s largest and most dynamic Food and Financial corporate entities, to discuss the progress made thus far with developing and implementing the such a product.
“Late last year, we received a presentation from GraceKennedy Insurance out of Jamaica. They had presented on a particular product that they have ongoing in that member state and expressed an interest in scaling up and introducing it to the rest of the region. They have indicated that they have now been able to put a dedicated project team to get this product up and running and that they are near completion of negotiating with their reinsurance to carry the product. They have also submitted an implementation work plan and programme to which they have committed to. All in all, it amounts to a possible product being introduced by the first half of 2023,” Mr. Bough said.
Additionally, Mr. Bough indicated that the MTF’s technical working group has also engaged the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF).
“At our last meeting, we received a presentation from the CCRIF which indicated that they had several products available but in particular, they had a livelihood product that they were ready to go to market with. The technical working group also met with them recently and they indicated that they are prepared to launch their Livelihood Protection Policy in December 2022. They’ve also indicated that their insurance partner will be Garden Insurance Group Limited and that they identified Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and Trinidad and Tobago as countries to launch the pilot for the product. This product
is also intended to be up and running by the first half of 2023,” he noted.
The need for agriculture insurance has become more critical as governments are usually responsible for providing the resources to support affected groups in the aftermath of natural disasters.
Since taking office, the government has been working with its regional partners to strengthen its disaster readiness and recovery plan as climate change continues to pose a threat to various productive sectors across the region.