"Transformation of agriculture in the Caribbean is critical in addressing many of the challenges that the region faces. The large and growing food import bill is not only a drain on the region's foreign exchange, but [also] deprives it of opportunities for economic diversification and job creation, especially for young people, in farming and food processing industries," he told participants during Monday's opening ceremony.
The CTA director disclosed that this year's theme, 'Investing in Food and Agriculture', came out of the recognition of the need to address, in a meaningful way, the lack of sustained investment, a very critical constraint for many Caribbean producers.
"Marketed and distributed properly, quality fresh and value-added agri-food products can be dynamic sources of jobs and income - if only the people behind these enterprises can access the finance and business development support they need to turn them into profitable ventures," Hailu noted.
"At CTA, we have been increasingly focusing our efforts, working closely with our key partners, on value chain and agri-business development in the region. An important focus of our work lies in increasing the capabilities of small-scale producers and other players in the value chain, helping them to become better organised and profit from domestic, regional and international markets," the CTA director added.
At the level of farmers and their organisations, the focus is on two key areas. The first involves improving coordination in specific value chains with the greatest potential such as roots and tubers, and fruits and vegetables. The aim is to enable a significant number of farmers to increase their revenues by upgrading products, processes and productivity to match market demands.
The second area of support involves facilitating access to critical business development services, such as finance, inputs and value addition. To this end, given CTA's comparative advantage of working in the area of information communication technologies (ICT), especially in training and supporting young ICT entrepreneurs, it is promoting mobile apps to enhance various aspects of the value chain.
Over the course of the week from October 24-28, the CTA will unveil some of the initiatives it has designed to fill gaps in value-chain efficiency and improve the prospects of all players for generating higher revenues by using them.