Caribbean–Pacific Agri-Food Forum

CTA

Exploring new ways of transforming the agri-­food sector in the Caribbean and Pacific

A CTA report from the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum

  • Caribbean

The Caribbean and Pacific Agri-food Forum 2015 (CPAF 2015) took place in Bridgetown, Barbados 2–6 November. More than 250 thought-leaders, decision makers and agri-food experts from the Caribbean, Pacific and across the world gathered at the event to exchange experiences, share knowledge and explore how an agribusiness approach can drive rural development in small island states. Participants came from private enterprises, government organisations, financial institutions, tourism and food businesses, development partners, news organisations and other agribusiness organisations.

CPAF2015 Report GROUp photoOpening ceremony speakers L-­‐R: Jethro Greene, CaFAN Chief Coordinator; Senator Norman Grant, JAS President and CaFAN Chairman; Michael Hailu, CTA Director; Krystal Cox, St Lucia Entrepreneur; Howard Aru, Director General of the Vanuatu Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Livelihoods, Forestry and Biodiversity; Esworth Reid, Permanent Secretary of the Barbados Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management; and James Paul MP, BAS, CEO

An action-oriented approach was used to formulate robust recommendations for a stronger, people‐centred future for the industry in the two key regions of the Caribbean and the Pacific. CPAF 2015 included three days of hands‐on workshops in parallel sessions and ended with the two-day Second Caribbean Agribusiness Forum, which discussed strengthening the agri-food sector and expanding markets. On-site learning journeys in Barbados and other islands, plus other special events and meetings were conducted in conjunction with the event.

The Second Caribbean Agribusiness Forum aimed to promote agribusiness development by sharing successful business cases, identifying tangible opportunities in new markets, promoting links between the agri-food sector and the tourism industry to increase sustainable local sourcing, and identifying the support needed to strengthen relations between value-chain actors and the tourism industry. It brought policy makers, farmers, agribusiness operators, financial institutions, hospitality sector experts, development partners, government ministers and civil society groups together to discuss issues faced by agribusiness operators in the Caribbean and Pacific regions.

Agribusiness experts acknowledge that agriculture in the Caribbean and Pacific faces challenges. The end of preferential conditions for exports of traditional commodities from the Caribbean to the European Union (EU) is having a marked effect on the finances and production capacity of up to 500,000 small-scale farmers, and is causing a sharp decline in the sector. Pacific Island producers are facing similar problems and, in both regions, the sector must face issues that include degradation of natural resources, climate change, natural disasters, limited availability of finance and a heavy dependency on food imports. Rising levels of nutrition-related diseases are an additional problem.

At the opening of the event, Mr James Paul, CEO of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) remarked that the event’s approach of ‘link, learn and transform’ presented a “truly challenging task in today’s world in which it seems that we are swimming against the tide.”

“Many of the issues of vital importance to the human race have been side-lined and at times sacrificed on the altar of commercial expediency,” he said, adding that his view of the problem as commercial, rather than political, expediency was not a reflection of his role as an MP, but his view of the “rationale for many of the decisions that are made today” based on the “economic argument that unbridled capitalism and free trade represents the way to go in a modern world”.

CTA Director, Michael Hailu, said in his opening speech that "conferences of this kind tend to focus on discussing problems rather than finding solutions" and expressed his desire for this conference to "change the tide of pessimism to a vision of optimism" by focusing on innovative solutions and smart partnerships. He pointed to evidence that small island states are more vulnerable to economic shocks and natural hazards than other countries, and said new areas of economic development and strengthened diversification strategies would be the key to combating this situation.

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