As Guyana continues to place major emphasis on Food and Nutrition Security in order to ensure the region’s food needs are met, several steps are being taken to ensure persons are afforded access to safe foods of sound nutritional quality.
As a result, the University of Guyana (UG) hosted a consultation exercise to propose the establishment of an Institute of Food and Nutrition Security today at the Guyana Marriott Hotel.
Delivering the keynotes address, Agriculture Minister, Hon. Noel Holder said that much emphasis is being placed on strengthening food and nutrition security in the Caribbean and that government continues to plug an immense number of resources into strategies aimed at strengthening such areas.
“The region is not sleeping, especially Guyana. With an investment of over $60 million US in agriculture over the past decade, Guyana has been addressing all areas of food Security from the reorganization of the support systems, legislative upgrades, stimulation of production, implementation of new standards such as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), to the introduction of Good Manufacturing Practices and HACCP in the Agro-processing industry.” Minister Holder said.
With international statistics depicting the high prevalence of malnutrition, Minister Holder also echoed the call for new strategies and ideas to be developed, adding that revisiting old ideas and the development of new technologies to increase productivity is essential to combat this phenomenon.
“New systems to combat post-harvest losses, new ways of thinking to develop Food Safety Systems to not only protect consumers’ health but to reduce spoilage and increase the shelf life and storage of foodstuff must also be developed.” Minister Holder said.
The consultation sought to generate meaningful dialogue that would see recommendations being made to the University of Guyana on the role of the proposed institute, the process for its establishment and to identify issues and concerns that must be addressed. Additionally, it hopes to instill in the participants that Food and Nutrition Security should not only be considered a matter of national development but also a matter of national security.
Additionally, it focused on highlighting pressing food and nutrition insecurity challenges, which include poverty, uneven economic growth, unhealthy diets leading to increasing prevalence of nutrition-related chronic diseases and stability issues related to climate change.
UG Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, in delivering welcoming remarks said that agriculture should not be forgotten as areas like oil and gas are being focused on, adding that as a university, they have a responsibility and are obligated to play a role in the nation’s Food and Nutrition Security.
“As the nation pursues energy and gas, we must not neglect agriculture. The pull to oil and gas usually results in a push away from agriculture. I hope we do not fall victim to this push and pull factor. As a university, we must ask ourselves – are we doing what we need to do to address the clear and present dangers of Food and Nutrition Insecurity? Universities have the responsibility and are obligated to deal with these issues.” Professor Griffith said.
The subject Minister also spoke of the importance being placed by the Ministry on two key legislation to further bring closure to the fragmentation that exists in the Food Safety System while placing Guyana in the realm of international agriculture.
“The Food Safety Bill, which seeks to form an integrated Food Safety Authority and create a robust and trustworthy system under the One Health Concept with controls from Farm Production, Packaging, Transportation, Storage until the Sale of Food products to consumers. The Animal Welfare Bill seeks to regulate how we as a nation treat and relate to animals, domesticated and wild. Moreover, this bill aims at protecting human health by ensuring that animals are reared, transported and slaughtered in a humane and stress-free manner thus assuring the availability of high-quality meat products free from antibiotics and environmental contamination.” Minister Holder said.
The day’s proceedings saw several persons from the ministry and the University of Guyana making presentations and carrying out detailed follow-up discussions on key areas of food and nutrition in Guyana such as Guyana’s food availability, accessibility and affordability and the conceptualization of an Institute for Food and Nutrition Security.
Inputs during the day’s proceeding were also made by representatives of the Private Sector and FAO, IDB, PAHO/WHO and UNICEF.