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Agribusiness in the Caribbean – a sustainable strategy for small-scale farmers

For immediate release - Bridgetown, Barbados, 5 November 2015

Taking an agribusiness approach to agricultural development can do much to provide income generating opportunities for rural communities, as well as helping to increase food security, reduce food imports and create jobs, especially for young people. The 2nd Caribbean Agribusiness Forum - Strengthening the Agri-Food Sector and Expanding Markets, which opens today in Bridgetown, Barbados, will highlight the main drivers of agribusiness development and examine success stories that can be scaled up. The Forum is being attended by agribusiness private sector players, decision-makers, policy-makers, financial institutions, chefs, development partners and other actors. The two-day event is being held as part of the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum, which opened on 2 November and runs until 6 November.

The Caribbean Agribusiness Forum is the latest in a series of initiatives led by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and partners aimed at promoting regional and international trade through agribusiness development, in support of small island developing states (SIDS). As on previous occasions, experts from Pacific and Indian Ocean countries have been invited to share their experiences.

This week's Forum will highlight sustainable and inclusive successes achieved by agri-food and fisheries initiatives in the three regions and examine opportunities for replicating and rolling them out. Sessions will also explore the importance of data-driven agribusiness and the role of chefs as key actors in the chain. A special focus will be examining the potential of agritourism for driving economic development in small island developing states, given the similar challenges that many of them face, but also the opportunities offered by a growing volume of tourists.

Although agricultural production and development is compromised by island states' remote locations and vulnerability to climate change, there is excellent and often untapped potential in small island states for supplying tourist markets with food, beverages and local products. The Caribbean attracts 40 million visitors each year, offering considerable scope for developing linkages between agriculture and tourism to provide opportunities to small-scale producers, agri-processors and other rural actors.

Involving the private sector will be critical to agribusiness development in the Caribbean, said CTA Director Michael Hailu at the opening ceremony of the 2nd Caribbean Agribusiness Forum. "In the past few years, there has been much stronger recognition from governments and development partners that unless the private sector is pro-actively engaged in this dialogue on development, especially in the context of agriculture, we can't really make much progress," he said. "If agriculture is treated as a social sector, and not as a business, the vicious circle of farmers not producing enough, not being able to feed themselves and not able to access markets will continue. But you can't leave everything to the private sector, so there is a need for government policy intervention to bring small-scale farmers into the market, in partnership with the private sector."

"Farming is a private sector activity and therefore the private sector should assume a larger role in guiding it and, most importantly, in investing in the sector," added Ambassador Mikael Barfod, Head of the EU Delegation to the Eastern Caribbean Countries, OECS, CARICOM and CARIFORUM. "This is why fora like this one are important. They provide partners from public and private sector, with opportunities to look for innovative ways to create synergies and complementarities and ensure maximum efficiency of the investments in the sector. Discussing successful stories of agri-business ventures in the region should help us understand the needs of the private sector, in terms of business environment and implement the necessary reforms for more investments to take place."

Vassel Stewart, President of the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA), said that in the Caribbean, the focus would be on developing a business approach to the roots and tubers, herbs and spices, small ruminants, fisheries and coconut sectors. "Agriculture is the foundation, but agribusiness is the driver," he said. "Much of the effort that has been given to the sector has been somewhat narrowly focused on primary production rather than other aspects of the chain. The fact is that it is agribusiness and agri-processing and marketing and promotion that is going to have an effect on farmers finding markets."

Welcoming the Forum as a valuable opportunity to share knowledge and experiences, Diego Montenegro, Director of Management and Regional Integration at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) said it also offered a chance to strengthen partnerships. "The 2nd Caribbean Agribusiness Forum gives recognition not only to the promotion of regional trade and agribusiness development, but also to sharing and exchanging knowledge and expertise and to deepening collaboration with key partners and stakeholders," he said. "These are exciting and challenging times for the agriculture sector, so these types of fora are very important for us to collect inputs and information to develop our country strategies and direct joint activities for the future."

Today's sessions will examine new opportunities for private sector development and opportunities to support agribusiness through ACP-EU cooperation instruments. There will also be panels to explore opportunities in regional and international markets, promoting agribusiness through value addition and product diversification in priority industries and in tourism-related markets.

The following day, Friday November 6, will feature presentations on data-driven agribusiness and how ICTs can be harnessed to collect and share information to drive agribusiness development.

The link between agriculture and cuisine will be explored during a session on Chefs for Development, an initiative first launched by CTA and partners at the 1st Pacific Agribusiness Forum in July 2015. Discussions will revolve around the need to upgrade farmers supply chains to larger hotels and resorts, and opportunities for stimulating demand of local products and their use by chefs in the hospitality sector. Presentations will include the experiences of chefs from the Caribbean, Pacific and Indian Ocean countries in sourcing products from local farmers and promoting local cuisine.

The 2nd Caribbean Agribusiness Forum is being organised by CTA, CABA and IICA, in collaboration with the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA).

For more information, please contact:
Stéphane Gambier, Senior Programme Coordinator Communications (CTA)
gambier@cta.int
Tel.: +31 (0)317 46 71 79