Cooperation is imperative to combat food insecurity in the Caribbean region.
Speaking at the opening of Agrofest 2022, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali, stressed that regional consensus is needed to improve food production and food accessibility.
“We cannot see each other as competitors. We cannot see each other as opposite sides of the same wicket. We must see ourselves as a singular collective, a singular partner working together for a common goal and vision which is to give the best possible opportunity for the people of our country, to bring prosperity to the people of our country, to put food on the tables of our people in this region at a lower cost, at a sustainable cost and in a much healthier way” , he told those gathered at Queen’s Park on Friday.
The opening of Agrofest 2022 was also attended by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation and Labor of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saboto Caesar, UN World Food Program Representative and Country Director Regis Chapman and other officials from the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.
President Ali has encouraged local producers to step up and “break the cycle of consumption that comes from extra-regional sources
“Not only do we need to produce more, but we also need to change the way we consume. We need to focus more on what we produce as farmers and government, as the private sector or as distributors. all be part of this process.
“You have to see us as more than distributors now. You also have to be part of the production process. You have to expand your business model to be part of the production process.
If we don’t, we won’t be able to secure and reliably maintain the current business model. Our economic model must change. Only when this business model changes can we bring all segments of our society together. If we distribute more of what we produce, we will help them break the cycle of consumption that comes from extra-regional sources,” he said.
During his address, President Ali spoke about the Guyana/Barbados partnership and future plans. He said more than 50 companies and 150 exhibitors from Guyana will take part in the two-day agricultural showcase, Agrofest.
He also disclosed that Barbados and Guyana will work together to develop Guyana’s tourism sector, with around 6,000 Guyanese students set to receive training in the hospitality industry. He clarified that this symbiotic relationship will not only extend to tourism and agriculture.
“We are already looking at development partners and stakeholders who will work with us to help us transport limestone to Guyana, bring maize and soybeans to Barbados as cheaper health inputs for producers. This will help poultry farmers and pastoralists.We are actively working on the twinning of our economies, starting with tourism.
“I have already discussed this with Prime Minister Mottley, that we are working to create a direct link between northern Brazil and Barbados so that you can access millions of people as a new market for your tourism. We have offered a space in Barbados at our Consulate Office in the State of Roraima where the Barbados Tourism Authority would establish itself to promote Barbados and advance your tourism product,” he shared.
President Ali went on to announce that his government would provide 50 acres of land to young and vulnerable people who wanted to participate in the Black Belly Sheep program.
“We are setting aside 50 acres of land that will be owned by young people as part of the Black Belly Sheep project in Guyana. Fifty acres will belong to people with disabilities, 50 acres will belong to single mothers and most importantly, 50 acres will belong to your young people here in Barbados.
“These funds will work together in an integrated way to supply the market here. We are working on training your butchers here so they can make the best cuts and Barbados can work on setting up this logistics hub to move these products along the marketing chain,” he explained.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley then expressed her gratitude to President Ali for his partnership, saying, “Thank you once again, President Ali, for ensuring that you once again opened up to our two countries the opportunity to work together in this critical area, so whether it’s in the area of agriculture and food security, whether it’s in the area of housing, whether it’s in the area of logistics, whether be it in the business of gold trading, whatever it is, we have recognized that in this world, you will not be able to succeed if we try for ourselves.