Progress towards food self-sufficiency and the achievement of economic and technical efficiency in food production were the primary objectives a senior Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Trade official identified for a renewed agriculture sector.
Food production efficiency should be achieved through the full implementation of the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Security Policy (FNSP) and the Caribbean Agricultural Policy (CAP), Assistant Secretary-General, Trade and Economic Integration, at the CARICOM Secretariat, Mr. Joseph Cox said Thursday. He was at the time delivering remarks at the opening of the Fifty-Ninth Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development on Agriculture.
Among the suggestions Mr. Cox made for a “new day” in agriculture, were the modernisation of the sector; promotion of agro-allied industries to increase agriculture production across value chains; and the establishment of a transparent and harmonised agricultural incentive mechanism that would serve to reduce barriers to the industry and likely provide encouragement to young persons interested in pursuing a career in agriculture.
“Indeed, it is pointless for us to be seeking to compete in industries which are almost totally mechanised and technology driven while we continue to be heavily reliant on manual labour. Let’s use foresight and the strength of our firm Regional resolve to retrain workers where appropriate to minimise the dislocations which are sure to occur as we exit some markets but embrace new opportunities,” he told delegates at the opening.
The new Assistant Secretary-General recommended revisiting the strategies for the alleviation of the key binding constraints to agriculture that would help to reduce the risks and uncertainties in the sector. The key binding constraints include: deficient and uncoordinated risk management measures including praedial larceny; limited financing and new investments; inadequate transportation system, particularly for perishables; and outdated and inefficient agriculture.
With respect to risk management, Mr. Cox said that the Community needed to develop a Regional agriculture crop insurance mechanism, and confront the “vexed issue” of praedial larceny.
On the financing front, he offered the development of financing framework for agriculture, including financial instruments such as factoring, partial credit guarantees and incorporating collateral reform. Streamlined collateral reform would allow for the use of agricultural equipment to secure loans.
“Let’s also use the opportunity to develop non-traditional collateral mechanisms which will allow farmers to use crop yields e.g. rice, farm animals etc. as legitimate collateral mechanisms. All this ladies and gentlemen in an effort to deepen and strengthen the penetration of the industry,” Mr. Cox said.
He recommended that the Community collaborate more with the maritime transport cohort as part of efforts to improve the transportation as he acknowledged that the “intra-Regional shipping costs are simply too high”.