CARICOM and Food Security
At the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in St Lucia, President Donald Ramotar is reported to have bemoaned the failure of his fellow WI leaders to implement the “Jagdeo Initiative” on food production in the region.
Noting that not even a dent has been made on the US$3 billion bill CARICOM countries foot annually, he posited this has to be seen as “an indictment on the entire region”.
As head for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in CARICOM, President Ramotar affirmed that “The Jagdeo initiative could encourage production and productivity, strengthen our competitiveness and secure better market access.” We couldn’t agree more.
Back in 2008 we wrote about “the hollowness of CARICOM’s purported commitment to the “Jagdeo Initiative” which has been articulated as a strategy for fast tracking the regional drive for realising its agricultural potential – the Regional Transformation Programme (RTP) for Agriculture and its successor, the Caribbean Community Agriculture Policy, and not so incidentally, deliver us into sustainable food self sufficiency.
Ever since the strategy was broached in 2003, and fleshed out the following year, there have been innumerable meetings, seminars, conferences and other talk-shops involving Heads of Government, Core Group of Institutions, Forum Ministers of Agriculture, Agri-Business Private Sector, National Consultations etc. The meetings produced a mountain of documents but not a basket of vegetables.”
The Jagdeo Initiative was supposed to have cut through the previous mountain of paperwork produced by the previous forty years of pontificating about our need to produce our own food and producing plans to accomplish the same. It identified “ten key binding constraints” that needed to be overcome, and recommended that Agriculture Ministers from the region take responsibility for addressing particular constraints within a stated time line.
The constraints and matched Ministers were: 1. Limited financing and Inadequate New Investments: Barbados; 2. Inadequate R&D: St. Lucia; 3. Outdated & Inefficient AHFS: Trinidad/Tobago; 4. Fragmented & Uncoordinated Private Sector: Vincent/Grenadines; 5. Deficient & Uncoordinated Risk Management Measures: Antigua/Barbuda; 6. Inefficient Land & Water Distribution & Management Systems: Guyana: 7. Inadequate Transportation Systems: St. Kitts and Nevis; 8 & 9. Weak and Non-integrated Information and Intelligence Systems and Services and the Need to Participate in Growth Market Segments: Jamaica; and 10. Lack of Trained Human Resources: Dominica.
The goal was that by 2015, there would have been substantial progress towards contributing significantly to national and regional development and to economic, social and environmental sustainability; a transparent regulatory framework at national and regional levels, that promotes and facilitates investment and attracts (direct and indirect) inflows of capital; significantly transformed its processes and products and stimulated the innovative entrepreneurial capacity of Caribbean agricultural and rural communities; and enabled the region (as a whole) to achieve an acceptable level of food security that is not easily disrupted by natural and or manmade disasters.”
Three months later, a two-day “CARICOM Agriculture Investment Forum” was held right here in Guyana and the CARICOM Secretariat announced that “twenty-five projects ranging from food production to ethanol production were presented to investors”.
Based on the historic paralysis of CARICOM on food production, we wrote: It was reported at the beginning of the Forum that “bankers and financiers pointed out that government guarantees, crop Insurance, export credit and tax and other concessions, and the removal of cross border barriers to trade in agriculture were factors they considered important when making investments in agriculture.
Adequate infrastructure and research were also factors that financiers said were important in alleviating the challenges associated with funding projects in the sector.”
The question is why should these constraints be only brought up at a Forum that was supposed to be focused on linking money with concrete projects?
What were the CARICOM bureaucrats doing before the Forum was convened? Hadn’t the Jagdeo Initiative already identified ten binding constraints to agriculture in the region? Wasn’t financing one of those constraints?”
A year later we noted that nothing had been done and concluded “we should not waste too much (if any) time with CARICOM on agriculture any longer. Today that remains our view.