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Poor transportation hampers growth of regional agriculture

By Ivan Cairo, Caribbean News Now, 27 Oct 2016

October 27, 2016
  • Caribbean

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- Wastage of agricultural produce in the Caribbean will continue due to poor transportation a top official of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), said on Tuesday during the opening of the Agricultural Trade and Transport Seminar at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture being held in the Cayman Islands.

Acting sub-regional FAO Coordinator, Lystra Fletcher-Paul, lamented the wastage of especially tropical fruits she experienced in Guyana. She noted that, if there was an adequate intra-regional transport system for agricultural produce, the food import bill in the region of over US$5 billion, could be scaled back.

However Caribbean Community (CARICOM) adviser, Desiree Field-Ridley said in an interview that producers and transporters both have a different take on the transportation issue.

"Actually the transportation people will tell you it's a production problem," said the CARICOM official. "They claim that there are no regular supplies in large quantities hence the lack of adequate transportation arrangements for the sector. On the other hand farmers are saying that since there are no reliable transport facilities they are not inclined to increase production."

Field-Ridley said that currently CARICOM is looking into a study involving shippers, exporters and producers to identify the bottlenecks and make recommendations for the policymakers.

According to Nisa Surujbally, programme manager, agriculture at the CARICOM Secretariat, part of the Caribbean's transportation issues date back to the colonial era when there was a system in place that catered to the logistics of the traditional commodities rice, bananas and sugar.

"They had everything well mapped out. There was an assured market with good prices and a full infrastructure was developed," she said.

Other crops didn't have the same level of institutional and infrastructural support and policy support to address the constraints, Surudjbally noted. Part of the solution, according to her, is the establishment of linkages and the involvement of service providers to build a platform between suppliers and transportation providers.