The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) will “lead” discussions and plans on how to address the region’s transportation woes affecting the movement of produce.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley told the media on Friday that the CDB will lead this discussion with several countries “to be able to finally see how we can resolve this, particularly, for the movement of produce.”
The Prime Minister was at the time responding to a question asking her to list some of the immediate actionable plans that came out of the recently concluded Regional Agri-Forum and Expo to reduce the food import bill.
That bill stands at US$6 Billion but the region through CARICOM has been championing reducing that bill by 25% by 2025. Transportation has been listed as a major impediment to intra-regional trade and Prime Minister Mottley feels that this is one of the areas that need to be addressed urgently.
“The urgency of what we are facing particularly as it relates to food means that everybody knows that we got to get on board,” PM Mottley said, “What is at stake is people’s abilities and families’ abilities to stay above the crisis and to be able to feed themselves.”
The PM also feels that the Guyana/Barbados Food terminal could make a major dent in the food import bill while providing a major boost to intra-regional trade in food and agriculture. To this end, the Prime Minister said she is expected to convene a meeting on this project in a few weeks.
PM Mottley feels that there needs to be political will across the region to deal with many of the obstacles and barriers that inhibit trade in the region as she said many of these issues can be worked on.
“I’m very happy that we’ve been able to have this Conference to be able to mobilize those of us in the region who believe that it’s critical that we make available to our people, safe, nutritious and affordable food as a matter of urgency. This region has gone through a difficult time in the last two and a half years with the pandemic with those of us who have had issues with climate and when you add to that now the inflationary pressures as a result of the global supply chain and worst of all with the Russian invasion of Ukraine we have seen a level of inflation with food that is really unbearable”
PM Mottley said the regional heads are now looking to see what measures can be put in place to ensure we are less dependent on the world while at the same time reducing foreign exchange expenditure.
This she said, was compromised largely because of the difficulty the region had warning revenue during COVID.
“We depend on tourism and I believe the concrete measures taken here today for us to move forward with respect to specific investment plans, specific opportunities for financing those investment plans… we need to work now with the private sector in particular the importers and distributors who need to recognise that with us we need an efficient supply chain that is safe and secure and not necessarily one that is driven only by imports. The additional benefit of course is with respect to our health profile. Too many of our people have suffered from COVID with comorbidities and that’s largely because of our eating profile and lack of exercise.”