(GUYANA CHRONICLE) – WITH CARICOM examining ways the Region can support itself during the global crisis, chairman of the National Coronavirus Task Force (NCTF), Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo said Guyana has the advantage to boost food security in the Region.
In a video press conference on Thursday, he told the media that Guyana has long been touted as the food basket of the Region, similar to the way Trinidad and Tobago has been thought of as the Caribbean’s industrial basin.
Only weeks ago CARICOM Chair, Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley said that the notion of a “single domestic space” for CARICOM with regard to travel, food security, health and more, has now become more important.
She said that with globalisation expected to return to the world region by region, countries will have to rely on their neighbours for support and there is no better time for the Region to band together than now.
At the Ninth Special Emergency Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM on April 15, food security was high on the agenda.
“Guyana has always been considered the food basket of the Caribbean from the point of view of having vast natural resources of fertile land, fertile soil, clean air, clean water and vast land space,” the prime minister said.
On the matter of land space, he stated that this has become very attractive to the Caribbean, which is made up of mostly small islands. Guyana, on the other hand, is the largest Caribbean country in terms of landmass.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) holds Guyana as a food-secure country with no major food-security issues.
Nagamootoo said President David Granger has been in consultation with the Rural Affairs Secretariat to determine the efforts that can be initiated to stimulate local agriculture.
The prime minister said the international situation is very bleak as many factories are now closed and the usual imports of most countries have been affected, as countries hold on to their own supplies or are challenged by export restrictions.
He cited reports from U.S. media which stated that 25 per cent of U.S. pork production has been hit by the coronavirus and scores of food-processing workers have died after contracting the virus.
According to 2018 data from the International Trade Centre (ITC) the 15 CARICOM member states collectively source up to 94 per cent of their food imports from the U.S. market.
Meanwhile, data from the same year showed that 94 per cent of all CARICOM imports of cereals; 90 per cent of edible fruits and nut imports and 91 per cent of sugar confectionery imports originate from the U.S.
At such a time, self-sufficiency of CARICOM and Guyana, individually, becomes even more important.
“Guyana is in a very good position to have local stimulation of agriculture and we’re hoping that the Ministry of Agriculture will come up with a comprehensive plan on how to help households in Guyana and how to help farmers to take to the soil and to help to boost our local supplies,” he said.
He added: “Trinidad has always been seen as the industrial basin of the Caribbean and we have been seen as the agricultural basin of the Caribbean; and we’ll continue to maintain that relation and to develop our economies so that we can help each other to provide with the need internally in our Region.”
CARICOM has stated that all proposals and arising issues will be considered in the context of the CARICOM COVID-19 Agri-Food Risk Management Framework, which was circulated to member states, following a meeting of Ministers of Agriculture last month.