(AP) – A Caribbean trade bloc released a report Saturday that warns the region’s food import bill is increasing at a rate of 7 percent a year.
Caricom said its 15 members spent $2.8 billion to import food in 2011, a 55 percent increase from 2005. Newer statistics were not available. It attributed the rise both to increased quantities and higher prices.
Most of the food is imported from the U.S., Canada and the European Union, ranking behind heavy machinery, transportation equipment, lubricants and related materials.
The U.S. remains the main source for all regional imports, followed by the European Union.
The Caribbean also has recorded a jump in exports to Venezuela thanks to annual shipments of more than 50,000 tons (45,300 metric tons) of rice from Guyana under the Petrocaribe program, which allows countries to pay for oil imports with local commodities such as rice and bananas.
Caribbean leaders are urging the development of large farms in countries such as Guyana and Suriname so that local governments can buy food from each other instead of relying on imports from outside the region.