Barbados and Canada today signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) formalising the establishment, here on the island, of the Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce through Enterprise and Linkages (PROPEL) project.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, in signing the MOU at her Ministry???s headquarters on Culloden Road, described PROPEL as ???a very timely project??? for Barbados and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as a whole.
She stressed: ???In fact, one could argue that a project of this scope and nature, which aims to link fresh fruit and vegetables produced by small farmers in the participating countries to established buyers across the region, is long overdue for our Community.
“Our expectations from this project are very high. We see the potential positive impacts which this project could have for the agricultural sector in our countries and for our economies in a wider sense.???
Senator McClean said PROPEL appeared poised to contribute to an increase in food production in Barbados and CARICOM, and surmised that if the project created the level of sustainability which it had the potential to embody, land owners could be encouraged to return now fallow lands back into agricultural production.
???This would be an important step in our efforts to improve food security,??? stated Senator McClean. She pointed out that PROPEL also had the potential to provide a viable entrepreneurial activity for young people interested in food production, and to encourage more of them to pursue farming, agro-processing and related services as new business opportunities.
The Minister further emphasised that Barbados was well aware that for PROPEL to succeed, commitment was needed by small-scale farmers, institutions and structures that regulate and facilitate the agricultural sector.
She noted that at the level of CARICOM, the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency had been established, and, with the support of the Inter-American Development Bank, Barbados was implementing the National Agricultural Health and Food Control Programme. Both initiatives, she added, would complement PROPEL???s efforts in Barbados.
High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados, Richard Hanley, said the signing represented the efforts of ???two good friends and partners??? to increase prosperity in the region. ???Canada is committed to working with Caribbean countries to increase economic opportunity and advance market-based growth,??? he asserted.
Mr. Hanley noted that most large buyers of agricultural products in the region, including supermarket chains, hotels and restaurants, were not sourcing from local producers, but looking outside to satisfy their needs.
???It is estimated that the market for fresh fruits and vegetables in the Caribbean, that is not currently being supplied by Caribbean producers, but could be, is worth between BDS$100 and BDS$200 million per year,??? Mr. Hanley disclosed, adding that the Government of Canada had committed CAN $20 million to the region for the PROPEL project to address this gap.
PROPEL is being implemented by the Canadian non-governmental organisation, CHF, previously known as the Canadian Hunger Fund, which has also contributed CAN $1 million. While the regional branch is based in Barbados, there are satellite offices in Jamaica and Guyana, which will work with local producers and major buyers in those countries, as well as in Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.