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thursDay, may 1, 2014| guyanatimesGY.com

Caricom/Mexico Summit

Ramotar laments Caricom US$4B food import bill P

resident Donald Ramotar said that there is a growing recognition of the importance of agriculture, which was vital for food security and essential in maintaining the political stability of the community as well as the region as a whole. Speaking at the Third Caricom-Mexico Summit held on Tuesday in Mérida, Yucatan, Mexico, President Ramotar welcomed the announcement made earlier by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, regarding his Government’s financial contribution to the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture for assistance to Caricom states to support the improvement of the agricultural sector, an important aspect of Caribbean life. President Ramotar reminded the meeting that it was the rise in food prices in Tunisia that had started the crisis which was unfortunately still raging in the Middle East. Highlighting the challenges which Caricom faced in the agricultural sector, President Ramotar pointed out that despite the many initiatives taken, the Caricom region was still a net importer of food with the food bill amounting to more than US$4 billion per year. He said that it was clear that the region needed a joint agricultural policy through which member states could complement each other and raise their production to reduce the vulnerability in the sector, in the process

President Donald Ramotar in front row for the official photograph of the sixth Summit of Heads of State/Government of Caricom and Mexico

examining the many problems that have emerged and those that were emerging. Referring to the impact of climate change on agriculture, President Ramotar cited the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo) as a practical example, explaining that since 2004, it was expected that there would be 120 days for land preparation for planting of sugar cane. “Due to changing weather patterns, the average amount of days per year had been reduced to 80.”

Market access

He said there was also need to have easy access to each other’s markets. However, to accomplish this, it was necessary to improve the transportation links – maritime and air transport. Another task was for the community to jointly work

to fight the huge food subsidy by developed countries which results in dumping, thus keeping the countries in a state of dependency. The Guyanese leader said another challenge was that of making agriculture attractive for young people to become involved. The solution was to introduce more technology into the agriculture sector and for this it was necessary to invest in human resources to produce the modern farmer. The President said that countries of the community must also aim to transform their agricultural products from just being raw materials to agro- industries. This is important to create jobs, both in agriculture and in industry where additional skills would be required and where value would be added. President Ramotar posited that it was time that the

community begin to consider some form of division of labour in agriculture which would help to broaden the amount of agricultural products that the region could make available to its peoples.

Qualfon

Linked to the development of the agricultural sector and agro-industry was the need for reliable and affordable energy, particularly for processing of agricultural products. In this regard, President Ramotar noted that the community could benefit from Mexico’s experience and expertise. In acknowledging the strengthened relations between Guyana and Mexico, President Ramotar recognised the active role played by the resident Mexican Ambassador in Georgetown. He also drew attention

to the investment made by Mexican company Qualfon as the largest single private and foreign employer in Guyana, which was planning to expand its operations, encouraged by its favourable business experience. President Ramotar expressed his appreciation to President Peña Nieto for the warm welcome and hospitality that he was accorded. He was accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Housing and Water Minister Irfaan Ali and Foreign Affairs Ministry Director General Elisabeth Harper. Meanwhile, Barbados’ Prime Minister Freundel Stuart told the summit that sustained development could be attained only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity and “that is the message that must emanate from our summit”.

Stuart said the spirit of dialogue and cooperation in which the two sides engaged should be an example for all to emulate at a time when there was heightened global tensions citing in particular, the Ukraine and the Middle East. But those problems, he said, “give us an opportunity to strengthen our determination to make the Caribbean a zone of peace and to present our region as a model for harmonious relations”. The Prime Minister was one of three speakers at the opening ceremony, including the President of Mexico and Secretary General of Caricom, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque. All speakers struck themes of climate change, in particular disaster risk management, agriculture and the vulnerability of small island developing states.

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