Regional Governments have been challenged to overcome their differences and form a united front to combat the ongoing food crisis.
“At the national level, most Caribbean nations can only hope for limited success. However, at a regional level success can be achieved on a broader basis or higher scale,” Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Senator Haynesley Benn, told a joint Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) meeting. He was speaking at a seminar themed: ‘The Food Price Shock and the Caribbean: Analysis and Response’ at the CDB Headquarters today.
Senator Benn, who cited worldwide projections that the current crisis was likely to continue over the medium term, asserted: “This bleak outlook should be a signal to Caribbean leaders, the business sector, farmers and other stakeholders to work together to find genuine long-term solutions to the food and fuel crises.”
Minister Benn told the high-level meeting that while many of the islands within the region had insufficient agricultural lands to meet their particular needs, some were not so challenged.
“I believe that collectively the region can satisfy substantially its food requirements, but this necessitates a solid regionally coordinated effort and we must be bold enough to deal with issues such as crime, transportation, water, utilities, roads, culture, technology, finance and investment,” he said.
The Minister, however, cautioned that “… embracing diversity and overcoming our differences are essential to successfully developing and implementing a regional food sovereignty and security plan”.
Minister Benn told the gathering that included representatives of the Regional Negotiating Machinery, The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and other financial agencies, that if this philosophy was extended globally countries would be in a position to utilise all the potentially available agricultural lands for agricultural production, since nearly half of the world’s potential agricultural land was unused.
“It also means that Government cannot allow agricultural lands to lay idle,” he advised.
Deeming the food crisis and global poverty to be a human rights issue, Minister Benn told practitioners it was incumbent on them to ensure that they did not leave a legacy of poverty to be inherited by future generations created by failure to critically analyse and respond appropriately to the food price shock, oil dependency and “all human activities that endanger life and the environment”.