Let me start by thanking the Government and People of the Cayman Islands for welcoming us warmly and making such excellent arrangements for this year's Caribbean Week of Agriculture.
The Caribbean Week of Agriculture has established a long tradition of bringing together key players in the region's agricultural sector—policy makers, farmers, women and youth leaders, research and development partners and agribusiness entrepreneurs—to share experiences and work together to improve the sector.
Over the years, CTA has been supporting the participation of delegates not only from the Caribbean but from the Pacific to promote experience sharing and learning across the Small Island Developing States.
This year we have several delegates from the Pacific and they have been actively participating in many of the sessions over the last few days. I would like to recognize Hon. Gracia Shardack, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries of Vanuatu. As Vanuatu will host the first Pacific Week of Agriculture next year, we hope the CWA will provide them with good lessons for the successful preparation of their event.
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 it deprives it of opportunities for economic diversification and job creation, especially for young people, in farming and food processing industries.
The focus of this year's CWA is rightly on investment in the food and agriculture sector, and here in the Caribbean, there is certainly much opportunity in this area.
The private sector is critical not only as a source of much needed investment, but holds many of the skills and experience needed if we are to transform Caribbean agriculture into a profitable business – one that is inclusive of smallholder producers, women and young people.
Governments need to create the enabling conditions and incentives to spur increased investment so that the food and agriculture sector can grow and move forward. The good news is that many governments in the region are now recognizing the benefits of investing in agriculture and taking concrete steps to promote the sector.
On my recent visit to Jamaica, I was very impressed by the Government's strong commitment to support farmers through the large number of successful agro-parks which facilitate ready access to services and inputs.
At the Annual Denbigh Agricultural show, which I had the privilege of attending as a guest of the Jamaican Agricultural Society (and its President Senator Norman Grant), the Prime Minister, the Most Hon Andrew Holness, made a strong commitment to support Jamaican farmers through the provision of credit, so they can produce high quality and sustainable supply to meet the demand from the tourist industry.
That would save hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign exchange and create thousands of jobs. And Jamaica will build on its success of reducing its food import by close to $90 million last year, achieving self-sufficiency in poultry, pork, Irish potatoes and most vegetables.
At CTA, we believe that to boost local production of nutritious, healthy foods that generate good returns for farmers, we need to strengthen their capacities -- helping them to become better organised and profit from domestic, regional and international markets.
They need to access key business development services, such as finance and access to inputs, and build resilience by applying climate-smart farming practices.
Partnership with the private sector is critical. Through the Caribbean Value Chain Alliance, CTA is working with CaFAN and the Sandals Foundation to create value for smallholder producers, particularly in the hospitality industry, bringing together farmers, traders, food processors, marketers, buyers and financiers.
In the Dominican Republic, CTA is partnering with a private bank (ADOPEM), which has strong social roots and considers agriculture as a potential growth area–to make responsible, productive finance available to small-scale producers.
With IICA and CABA, we have been promoting agribusiness development in the region by showcasing successful business models and bringing together various stakeholders from the private and public sectors.
We have in particular looked at the tourism-related markets and have documented successful models, including the role of chefs in promoting local food and working more closely with local farmers and processors groups.
Many of these initiatives are presented and discussed this week so that we share the experiences and learn from best practices. If all the stakeholders-government, private sector, farmers, financiers and development partners, come together and forge strong partnerships, it will be possible to transform agriculture as an engine for sustainable growth in the Caribbean.
I very much hope that this week will serve as an important platform to boost investment in the agri-food sector and help forge strong public-private partnerships.
I wish you all an enjoyable and productive Caribbean Week of Agriculture."
The Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016 is being held from October 26 to 28 in the Cayman Islands. It is jointly organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Cayman Islands Government, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (Intra-ACP APP).
For more information, please visit:
Stéphane Gambier, Senior Programme Coordinator, Communications (CTA)
Tel.: +31 (0)317 46 71 79