KINGSTON, Jamaica: Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, says the agricultural sector will play a meaningful role in the future development of the regional integration movement.
Jagdeo, who is visiting Jamaica to chair a CARICOM committee examining relations with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, attended the nation’s Emancipation Jubilee celebration with Prime Minister Bruce Golding last Friday. He also delivered the feature address at the 57th annual Denbigh Agricultural Show in the parish of Clarendon on Sunday.
“Most of what we have done with all the studies in the agricultural sector has been to guide our trade negotiators in the various trade theatres of the world,” said Jagdeo, who holds responsibility for Agriculture within the Quasi-Cabinet of CARICOM.
Jagdeo said although the Treaty of Chaguaramas has been ratified to include a special section on agriculture, the region has yet to implement an agricultural plan focusing on production.
“We will not realize the full potential of agriculture in this region until we change that perspective, until we situate agriculture in production and recognize that agriculture will be a very important part in our future.”
Jagdeo urged CARICOM countries to support the agricultural sector as they have done with other sectors of their economies.
“If we can give a whole range of incentives to tourism and the financial sector then surely we can do the same to the agricultural sector…so that farmers can get some support.
“We need also to invest in infrastructure, research and development that our budgets reflect our priorities…If this happens, it shows that we are committed not just by word, and then, most importantly we must never see this as a short term task to return to the same old policies that we have had before,” Jagdeo said.
Jagdeo said that, with the exception of Jamaica, CARICOM member states suffer from the lack of strong lobby groups that focus only on agriculture.
“Jamaica is ahead of the curve; we need to get the other countries of the region to work at these things, so that agriculture can replace the US$3 billion of imports that we consume from abroad every year.”
Jagdeo said the threat of rising global temperatures could also result in problems for the agricultural sector in the Caribbean.
“On the supply side, you need two good things to grow food, and that is land and fresh water, and both of these are shrinking (due to climate change),” he said.