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Posted in: Press Releases by admin | 15 May 2007 | Release Ref #: 108/2007 | 1550

    (CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Preparations are well advanced for the hosting by CARICOM of an international Donor Conference at the Crowne Plaza Trinidad Hotel, Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 2 June 2007. The Conference will bring together bilateral, multilateral, and regional donors and other partners to garner financial and technical support for the expansion and diversification of the Region’s agriculture industry,

    The Conference, which evolved from a mandate from CARICOM Heads of Government at their Inter-Sessional Meeting in February 2007, will discuss major challenges facing the Agriculture sector in the Region. These include: inadequate infrastructural development, technology transfer and food security and the overarching need for increased investment in the sector to enable its expansion and diversification towards sustainability and international competitiveness, and possible policy responses by the Region.

    President of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo who has lead responsibility for Agriculture in the Region, is spearheading the exercise to which the CARICOM Heads of Government agreed at their 18th Inter-Sessional Meeting held in Kingstown, St. Vincent and the Grenadines in February 2007.

    Participants at the forum will include Heads of Government, Ministers of Agriculture and Finance, other senior government functionaries, traditional bilateral, regional and multilateral donors and potential donors.

    The conference is being held against the background of the launch of the CARICOM Single Market (CSM) in 2006, the imminent establishment of a framework policy for the Single Economy in 2008, and eroding preferential access to produce such as sugar and bananas in traditional markets in the European Union and the United States, falling international prices for commodities and the reduction in investment in the agriculture sector.

    The conference is expected to yield financial and technical support for the agricultural thematic areas and the supporting projects.

    A Conference Secretariat is based at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.


    Media brief: Background and Community Approach

    Sugar has been particularly hard hit with the industry closing in St. Kitts and Nevis. Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, and Belize are all currently engaged in diversification programmes.

    The Region’s markets for bananas are in the European Union, particularly the United Kingdom. However, the preferential and guaranteed relationship that previously existed has changed overtime with licensing agreements, World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and reduction of prices militating against the industry. The changes have negatively affected banana-growing countries such as Belize, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia.

    In the pursuit of its vision for agriculture, the Community has embarked on a holistic approach to the development of the sector through the Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture which has its genesis in the Revised Treaty establishing the Caribbean Community and the Single Market and Economy. The RTP (A) is designed to transform the agricultural sector to be internationally competitive so that the Region can defend its domestic market while increasing its share of the international market. The Jagdeo Initiative 'Strengthening Agriculture for Sustainable Development' is a strategy to alleviate some of the binding constraints to the development of the sector and to create the enabling environment which will encourage a resurgence of investment in agriculture thus facilitating the transformation process. The Jagdeo Initiative, as a part of the holistic development strategy, will form the basis of discussions at the conference.

    In addition to the Jagdeo Initiative, CARICOM Heads of Government have developed a paper titled 'Towards a Single Economy and Single Development Vision' as a framework for further elaboration of the Single Economy. In that document, the Heads of Government identified agriculture as critical among sectors poised to drive the economic development of the Region.

    The CARICOM Agriculture strategy will lead to the creation of an enabling investment and production environment, effective technology development and transfer; the development of specific commodities and enterprises; and increased food security and sustainable development.