Guyana’s President Dr Irfaan Ali on Friday urged Caribbean countries to move away from consuming low-quality food and called on people in the region to eat agricultural products grown in the region. the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Addressing the Regional Dialogue on Food Systems, a precursor to the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit scheduled for September, President Ali said it was time for the Caribbean to remember the importance of eating local, regional and to use products from 15- member regional groupings.
“We cannot continue to eat third or second quality when we can produce first quality… we have to be brave to solve these problems. We can no longer stand on the sidelines, ”Ali said during his speech during the regional dialogue.
The Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat has partnered with key regional stakeholders including United Nations Resident Coordinators, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO, Food Program Global (WFP) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to host the virtual event.
The CARICOM Secretariat said the ideas, solutions and action plans emanating from this dialogue will feed into the global forum which is part of the Decade of Action to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. .
Ali, who has primary responsibility for agriculture in the quasi-CARICOM cabinet, said that while efforts can be made in the region to tackle food security, CARICOM needs the help of external agencies, especially given its vulnerability to climate change.
“The Caribbean region has been named the second most at risk region in the world, largely due to its vulnerability and exposure to multiple extreme and frequent events,” Ali said, adding “so it is imperative that attention be paid to building climate resilience in order to transform the region’s agrifood systems ”.
He said progress towards achieving the SDGs requires a commitment from all member states for positive action on climate change.
He said the success of the regional effort in agriculture will depend on the degree of international support, especially when it comes to financing the building of a more resilient agricultural sector.
“Financing for sustainable development is of equal importance,” he said, recalling an intervention he made at a high-level United Nations conference earlier this week on the extractive sector.
“I said then that without better access to finance, the efforts of small states to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement … will be derailed.”
He urged countries in the region to seize the opportunities of the United Nations Food Systems Summit in September to link greater resilience with increased access to finance for sustainable development.
Earlier, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, head of state responsible for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), told the conference that she hoped the region would accept that ” we need to speed up the process of producing as much food at the regional level as we can and must come together, accepting that the real breadbasins of the region will be Guyana, Suriname and Belize.
“But that doesn’t take away from the rest of us the obligation to produce as much food as possible,” she said, acknowledging that while there are some challenges, they must be faced.
“The first and most important is the potential normal access to cheaper food from outside the region, and therefore the question of how we deal with the whole issue of food security, allowing us anchoring our national policies and our trade policies becomes absolutely critical. / ”
Mottley also said the region “cannot afford to just need to grow food in times of crisis.