Agricultural investments will ensure food security, wealth generation for sector operators – Min. Mustapha

During the recently held Caribbean Agri-Food Investors Conference, Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha underscored the importance of investments in the regional agriculture system. This, he said, would further ensure food security and promote wealth generation for agriculture operators.

Minister Mustapha, while delivering remarks at the virtual conference also said that the desired transformation of the Regional Agri-Food System towards full commercialisation requires the active participation of the regional and international investors in agri-businesses that are backed by enabling environments provided by the policymakers.

“As the Region seeks to reduce its exposure to food price inflation among a slew of other negative externalities, and therefore reducing its high dependency on extra-regional imports and achieving the 25% by 2025 goal, it is crucial that all key agri-food players operate in unison. In light of the Caribbean’s financial need, which as far back as 2020 was more than US $10 billion, the region is open to fostering partnerships with both Regional and International Financial Institutions and Investors to address the concern of food security and the threat of climate change. From an investment perspective, the CARICOM Region’s huge food import bill can be seen as a unique opportunity for stimulating production in the Region and ramping up cross-border investments in targeted agricultural enterprises,” he noted.

H.E. President Dr. Irfaan Ali, in his address, indicated that investments in the sector should be viewed as creating a business and economic model that works for every stakeholder.

“When we speak about investment, we’re not speaking about charity. We’re speaking about creating a business and economic model that works…for the investor, for the people, and work for the country, in the context of what you want to achieve. And that context is food security and to create a high-value market,” President Ali explained.

Minister Mustapha further stated that for far too long, the region’s food security has been at the mercy of what happens outside the region. He also pointed out that in recent years countries in the region have been facing many challenges which have all been contributing factors to food insecurity.

“The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as extreme climatic events, have all been contributing factors to food insecurity in the region, and the CARICOM Region would have felt the impact as well of the disruptions in the global food supply chains,” he added.

Minister Mustapha explained that the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) has been receiving support from CARICOM’s Special Ministerial Taskforce on Food Security as it pursues its efforts to regional investments and intra-regional trade.   

“H.E Dr. Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana in the capacity of Lead for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in the CARICOM, and I as Chairman of the Special Ministerial Task Force, which was established to implement the CARICOM Agri-food System Strategy, has committed to supporting the Caribbean Private Sector Organisation in its efforts to develop and target regional investments and intra-regional trade in the identified priority commodities such as poultry and niche vegetables in the immediate term and to give special attention to other strategic commodities in the near to medium terms, such as corn, soy, rice, meat, and Coconuts. In particular, the Special Ministerial Taskforce’s main objective is to provide guidance on the transformation of the agri-food system, which is resilient, provides attractive and sustainable wealth creation opportunities for potential investors, and guarantees food and nutrition security for the Region,” he stated.

While stating that Guyana and the rest of the region will continue to welcome mutually beneficial investments in the agriculture sector, Minister Mustapha said Guyana and the CARICOM region will continue to express their commitment to providing a business environment that is favourable to investment citing CARICOM’s capability of becoming a leading food-producing Region.