Dr. Deep Ford, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for the Caribbean, noted that FAO of 2013 was different from the FAO of two years ago: then FAO was essentially an agricultural institution. Now FAO is also a Food Institution, i.e. recognizing the F in FAO.
The General Objective of the workshop was to facilitate the identification of priority policies and actions based on an exchange of experiences between the diverse stakeholders participating in the ongoing processes for the eradication of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the Caribbean.
- It was recognized that there is need for greater accountability and a result-orientated focus, by the ministries of Agriculture in the member states.
- The Caribbean region’s high food import bill was recognized as a matter of concern, particularly since more than 50 per cent of the imports constitute wheat, corn (cereal and cereal preparations), meat and meat products, and other processed products. Most of these can be substituted by produce from the region.
- There were enormous opportunities for investment by farmers and the private sector, if careful attention is paid to desegregating the statistics to determine what are the commodities imported, the demands, where they can be produced, who requires them (the markets), and who can produce them; this will form the core of the programme for food imports. In this context, cassava is seen as one of the major substitutes.
- There are many factors contributing to food insecurity in the region. Among these are: high debt to GDP ratio which affects the countries’ ability to allocate resources for investment in agriculture to address food and nutrition security; governance which allows for transparency and accountability in addressing issues to food and nutrition security; the ability of member states to implement programmes that will mitigate the negative impacts of climate change.
- Food nutrition security is a multi-sectoral and multi-dimensional issue. This therefore requires strong political commitment, multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral approaches and the forging of strong partnerships between and among institutions in the public and private sectors. These arrangements are also recognized for stimulating investments within countries and across borders, in order to achieve the objectives of food and nutrition security across the region.
- The changing consumption patterns among consumers in the region, has resulted in a shifting away from locally grown products to more imported processed and fast-food products. This has contributed to increases in Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) and other related health problems including obesity. On the positive side, it is recognized that this shift in demand can create opportunities for the transformation of regional produce into value-added, ready to use products. It is therefore considered as an opportunity for investment in the sector towards food security.
- There is a need to develop a regional policy framework for cross-border financing, as is evident by the experiences shared by the Old Mac Agro Supplies Ltd.
- While substantial work was done in areas of Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) measures, there are still weak support systems at the national and regional levels to facilitate trade.
- Transportation (air and maritime) was recognized as a crucial issue to facilitate trade. The meeting recognized the need for: negotiation for consolidated shipments, the possibility of computerized cargo and the support of governments to create incentives that will allow for such transportation systems.
Lessons learnt from success stories in countries where the appropriate trade policies were implemented to support domestic production, economic growth and development occurred were shared. Evidence of such policy support is reflected in some countries where the policy mandates agro-processors, hoteliers and their investors, to use a percentage of specified locally grown commodities in their operations. This creates a market and a demand pull to increase supply from the agricultural sector. Thus, it was recommended that Caricom ministers give consideration to such policies in support of agriculture.
There is also a need for strategic planning and a focused approach using the Value Chain to address the identified constraints.
Participants at the workshop were drawn from the diverse stakeholders with whom FAO/IICA interacts. They included government ministers and officials, representatives from International Development agencies, representatives from the private sector and civil society, representatives from non - governmental organisations and representatives from tertiary institutions.