[www.inewsguyana.com] – Speaking on the theme of his CARICOM portfolio responsibility, President Donald Ramotar said that there was a growing recognition of the importance of agriculture, which was vital for food security and essential in maintaining the political stability of the Community as well as the region as a whole.
The President attended the Third CARICOM-Mexico Summit held on Tuesday April 29in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico.
President Ramotar welcomed the announcement made earlier by Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico regarding his Government’s financial contribution to the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture for assistance to CARICOM States to support the improvement of the agricultural sector, an important aspect of Caribbean life.
He reminded the meeting that it was the rise in food prices in Tunisia that had started the crisis which was unfortunately still raging in the Middle East.
Highlighting the challenges which CARICOM faced in the agricultural sector, President Ramotar pointed out that despite the many initiatives taken, the CARICOM Region was still a net importer of food with the food bill amounting to more than US$4b per year.
He said that it was clear that the Region needed a joint agricultural policy through which Member States could complement each other and raise their production to reduce the vulnerability in the sector, in the process examining the many problems that have emerged and those that were emerging.
Referring to the impact of climate change on agriculture, President Ramotar cited GUYSUCO as a practical example, explaining that since 2004 it was expected that there would be 120 days for land preparation for planting of sugar cane. Due to changing weather patterns, the average amount of days per year had been reduced to 80.
There was also need to have easy access to each other’s markets. However to accomplish this, it was necessary to improve the transportation links – maritime and air transport.
Another task was for the Community to jointly work to fight the huge food subsidy by developed countries which results in dumping thus keeping the countries in a state of dependency.
Another challenge was that of making agriculture attractive for young people to become involved. The solution was to introduce more technology into the agriculture sector and for this it was necessary to invest in human resources to produce the modern farmer.
The President said that countries of the Community must also aim to transform their agricultural products from just being raw materials to agro- industries. This is important to create jobs both in agriculture and in industry where additional skills would be required and where value would be added.
President Ramotar posited that it was time that the Community began to consider some form of division of labour in agriculture which would help to broaden the amount of agricultural products that the region could make available to its peoples.
Linked to the development of the agricultural sector and agro-industry was the need for reliable and affordable energy, particularly for processing of agricultural products. In this regard, President Ramotar noted that the Community could benefit from Mexico’s experience and expertise.
In acknowledging the strengthened relations between Guyana and Mexico, President Ramotar recognized the active role played by the Mexican Ambassador resident in Georgetown. He also drew attention to the investment made by Mexican company Qualfon as the largest single private and foreign employer in Guyana which was planning to expand its operations, encouraged by its favourable business experience.
He expressed his appreciation to President Peña Nieto for the warm welcome and hospitality that he was accorded. He was accompanied by Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Irfaan Ali, Minister of Housing and Water and Acting Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce and Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, Director General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.