Policies and programmes that facilitate ongoing development, stimulate economic growth within the Region and promote food security also have to be put in place as a priority.
This was the focus of the speakers at the Opening Plenary Session of the 14th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) which got underway in the Cayman Islands on Monday morning under the theme `Investing in Food and Agriculture’. The first session of the week of activities explored the topic ‘Investment Needs and Strategies for Agriculture and Agribusiness‘.
Minister of Agriculture of the Cayman Islands, the Hon. Kurt Tibbetts told the packed audience at the Westin Resort, Grand Cayman, that it was most appropriate for such a session to be hosted in a jurisdiction that was well known for its financial services and in which agriculture was fast becoming “a business to reckon with”. He highlighted the “significant” role that the private sector had to play in enhancing commercial growth, and encouraged its participation in the agriculture sector. Success in agriculture, he said, was dependent on investment: investment in time, in energy, in patience and in funding.
Guest speaker Doug Hewson, Managing Partner at Portland Private Equity, LP, spoke of the advantages, opportunities and risks of investing in the agriculture sector.
Ms. Desiree Field-Ridley, Adviser, Single Market and Setoral Programmes at the CARICOM Secretariat, chaired the programme and pointed out that agriculture was a key driver of economies of the Region. She called for concrete investment proposals from the session to be presented to the private sector. Increased production, higher export and more investments were critical to the performance of the sector, she added.
Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul, Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) sub-regional Coordinator for the Caribbean pointed out that farmers “by far”, and low and middle income countries invested more in agriculture than governments and the private sector. Direct investment by farmers in agriculture, she said, had an impact in the reduction of poverty and the realisation of food security. She placed her interventions within the context of the Sustainable Development goals and placed emphasis on the reduction of non-communicable diseases in the Region by eating well and eating locally produced food.
Embracing partnerships, and competitiveness and the sustainability of agriculture chains for security and economic development, were the messages that Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)‘s Director of Management and Regional Integration, Diego Montenegro, brought to the session.
Mr. Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) focused on the information communication technologies aspect of agriculture, and pointed to the usefulness of social media as a tool to enhance agribusiness development.He added that key institutions had to come together to deal with agriculture in the Caribbean and that there had to be coordination between public and private sectors, farmers and others to achieve the growth objectives. The session’s theme was both timely and energising, he said.
Mr. Barton Clarke, Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) pointed to the need for a holistic approach to crafting agriculture policies. National stakeholders must come to the table, he said. He said the way resources were used had to be improved, that there had to be political will, and that institutions needed to provide the “currency” which he identified as strong policy advice.
This year, the CWA has drawn participation not only from across the Region, but from countries including, Brazil, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samao, Tonga and the Netherlands. Such representation, Minister Tibbetts said, was testimony to the value being placed on agriculture at home and beyond.
The official opening of CWA takes place on Wednesday. In keeping with the theme of the event, an investment forum on Wednesday morning is billed as one of the hallmark events of the week of activities.