A Jamaican opposition spokeswoman wants to see more synergies among CARICOM countries in the area of agriculture, as well as more diversification in the types of produce and value-added products that this region creates.
Director of Lydford Logistics, Lisa Hanna, who also shadows the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Trade in Jamaica, shared this view during a recent YouTube live discussion on the topic: The Future of the Caribbean: Sustainable Supply Chains, Trade, and Agriculture.
The discussion, which was hosted by Ethnie Miller Simpson, Managing Director of Grow Local Caribbean, also featured Barbados’ Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle; Jamaica’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green; and Founder and CEO of Farmcrowdy, Oneyka Akumah of Nigeria.
During the conversation, Mrs. Hanna praised Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Amor Mottley and also called on CARICOM islands to collaborate.
“The Prime Minister who is the Chair of CARICOM made some very, very progressive statements recently in where she is calling for the world to recognize our region and to ensure that we see things differently. Whereas developed countries can spend massive amounts on building militaries…, one mosquito in our region can change the fate of our economies. We have to start thinking differently.
“So, coming out of this, what I would like to see is more synergies among our respective countries. So that if a developed country, let’s say one per cent of the Chinese population, needs to be provided with vacuum packed yams in saline, and Barbados can get in on that with their lamb for instance, and we have a relationship where both countries are working so that we are not producing samples,” the Jamaican politician said.
Adding to the conversation, Minister Caddle suggested that economic diplomacy be used to strengthen trade ties beyond what was currently seen as the “easy markets”.
“Barbados has certainly had a strategy of strong economic diplomacy. We have set about creating the kinds of ties that we want to have with, for example the African continent. So we have decided that we need to vary our trading partners, we need to look at the kinds of cultures where we have obvious natural and familial relationships…. And not just to allow the market to say to us that the traditional markets are easy. Of course we have to encourage what has worked for us but we also have to use economic diplomacy to our best advantage to look at what are the things in which we can collaborate, and part of this has to do with air transport routes with the African continent,” she pointed out.
In his presentation, Mr. Akumah called for both farmers and countries to embrace technology within agriculture. His company, Farmcrowdy, is Nigeria’s first digital agriculture platform.
According to its website, Farmcrowdy empowers rural farmers by providing training in modern farming techniques and resources. To date, 25,000 small scale farmers have benefited.
Mr. Akumah encouraged persons to use their skillset within the field. “People have to realise that agriculture is no longer just putting seeds in the ground and getting a harvest. It also includes an entire value chain, and in that value chain different players can claim them,” he maintained.
He suggested that engineers could build drones to spray fertilizer on farms, and programmers could build apps to provide extension services for farmers, for marketing or to generate ecommerce.
The Nigerian entrepreneur explained that he never studied agriculture at school, but as a software engineer, he has worked successfully with over 5,000 farmers.
He urged Caribbean governments to brand young successful persons who worked along the agricultural value chain as ambassadors.
“They will then become your global ambassadors that will attract more young people to the sector. The reason why people are excited about doing music today is because they see so many ambassadors who are doing well in music…. If I am excited about an agricultural ambassador who looks as young as I do, I too will want to participate in that sector,” he suggested.
Jamaica’s Minister of State responsible for Agriculture, Floyd Green, called for an increase in private sector investment, noting it was important for government to encourage this through incentives.
“The government is a facilitator and we have our part to do, but the private sector also has a significant role to play, especially in relation to the provision of resources and investing resources in some of the gaps that reside in agriculture,” he said.
Mr. Green shared that the Jamaican government was taking a more strategic approach to agriculture and had identified nine crops with high local demand and strong export potential. These include Jamaican yellow yam, Irish potato, sweet potato and pineapple.