(by Kwesi Isles)
Regional officials believe that CARICOM could improve food and nutrition security by some 25 percent in the next two years if it sticks to the roadmap set out in the Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture.
Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) Director Dr. Arlington Chesney in an interview on Saturday said this was the current belief held by regional officials.
“When we developed the Jagdeo Initiative we never set a target or a timeline but with time now we’ve set a target of 25 percent by 2015 and I’m saying we could achieve that,” he stated.
The Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture identifies and defines key, crucial and binding constraints to agricultural repositioning in the Caribbean and aims to develop and implement targeted and practical interventions at both the regional and national levels to overcome the constraints.
“We developed three priority lists of commodities and with those commodities the region has now said that they could become 25 percent food and nutrition secure by 2015. We’ll never be 100 percent food secure unless you tell people don’t eat flour,” Dr. Chesney said.
The director said one of the things that caused the first Regional Agriculture Policy to fail was that everyone thought it was not theirs because it was a regional thing.
“So in the Jagdeo Initiative we deliberately said there’s nothing regional, there are national activities and so if you want to add what has been done it is substantial since the Jagdeo Initiative started. Things are happening but we need to market ourselves a bit more,” he said.
But the director said that despite the successes non-tariff barriers to trade remained a stumbling block to the efforts being undertaken. One of the key aims of the Jagdeo Initiative is to reduce the region’s food import bill which in recent years has been pegged at over US$2B annually.
Dr. Chesney also mentioned that CARDI would be looking to boost its presence in Guyana by building on the presence it has had in Georgetown since 2011.
“You’ll see in the papers a few days from now an advertisement for a representative for Guyana and a technician who will be a local person so we’ll have an office with a regional person plus a technician from Guyana.”
The CARDI official was on Saturday attending a media workshop aimed at creating better linkages between the media and the agriculture sector, one of the activities of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture being observed in Guyana.