By Ricardo Wells
Tribune Staff Reporter
AGRICULTURE ministers throughout the Caribbean will meet to discuss regional strategy in Nassau today.
Agriculture Minister V Alfred Gray yesterday announced that his ministry will host talks between the CARICOM Ministers of Agriculture and the United Nation’s Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at the British Colonial Hilton.
The MICAL MP said the meeting is “essential” to strengthen agricultural ties between Caribbean countries, adding that a number of Caribbean countries realised that regional issues were being overlooked during the 33rd FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean held in Santiago, Chile.
“Major food-producing nations like Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil and Uruguay were the dominant players,” he said, “and that CARICOM Ministers of agriculture needed a forum of their own, to discuss Caribbean issues.”
Mr Gray said: “This meeting is historic because it is the first of its kind ever to be held anywhere. All Ministries of Agriculture in CARICOM will be represented, mostly by Ministers themselves, but some by their Parliamentary Secretaries or Permanent Secretaries of their Ministries.”
The meeting is a part of the 26th Inter-Sessional Meeting of CARICOM, and was organised by FAO’s Sub-Regional Office in Barbados, headed by a co-ordinator, Dr Deep Ford and Dr Jerome Thomas, FAO representative to The Bahamas stationed in Jamaica, with assistance from Dr Godfrey Eneas, The Bahamas Ambassador to FAO.
According to Dr Ford, there is a wealth of agricultural knowledge around the region, but he claimed that the knowledge doesn’t translate into the necessary agricultural development.
Dr Ford explained that agricultural revitalisation in the region must be carried out to offset the low agricultural productivity. He said countries in the Caribbean need to foster stronger relationships which will allow a person producing food and products in the region to sustain a local market. He added that the markets in the region imports many of the items they could produce.
Dr Ford said: “In the Caribbean, we have a lot of intelligent people but they don’t go on to generate or produce products. There needs to be a direct connection between education and enterprise.”
“After extensive research, we have determined that 60 per cent of the flour and wheat we import to produce bread can be replaced with the cassava plant. The focus remains creating new pillars of agricultural development.
Dr Ford said: “We must make sure that more of the products that we produce within the Caribbean is consumed in the Caribbean.”
In addition to the attendance of CARICOM Ministers, the Director-General of FAO Dr José Graziano da Silva will also interface with Ministers and listen to their concerns, and the issues affecting Caribbean Agriculture. Mr Gray noted that a representative from Brazil, one of the largest Agricultural producing countries, is expected to attend this week’s meeting and make a presentation.
The group will also travel to the Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) as a part of their conference this week. The delegation, while in North Andros will tour the commercial and tutorial farm, campus building, the marine farm under construction and meet the students and faculty at the institution.
Mr Gray said: “At the end, it is hoped that the Caribbean position, as it relates to its relationship with FAO, will be solidified and the already good co-operation arriving Agriculture Ministers of the Caribbean will be strengthened.”