Ministers of Agriculture from three Caribbean are meeting today to launch a regional cluster of projects on Promoting the Windward Islands Food Production and Trade Corridor through National and Regional Value Chain Development.
The participating countries are Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
They will focus on plans under the project to build resilient and competitive value chains that can promote exports and reduce the importation of goods.
According to the FAO, the regional projects aim to replace agri-food imports that have had a toll on Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) economies by increasing the capacity for countries in the region to produce and export quality agricultural produce.
They said that “the steps being undertaken under the project are foreseen to contribute to the CARICOM food-importation bill reduction by 25 per cent by 2025 initiative and other global and regional targets such as those under the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda”.
FAO’s Sub-regional Coordinator for the Caribbean Dr Renata Clarke, said “there was a dire need in the region to build cohesion among governments and partners in our efforts to improve local agricultural production, enhance intra- and inter-regional trade and build more resilient agri-food systems that also promote the consumption of local produce by locals. The regional launch aims to catalyse this transformation.”
She added that by making linkages with other regional initiatives geared towards reducing CARICOM’s import bill and increasing agricultural exports, the region could accelerate its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and be better positioned to withstand the impacts of the current global food crisis.
The projects have just begun implementation by assessing the value chains with the greatest potential for success on the global market.
Dasheen has so far been identified as a crop of good potential and FAO will continue its work with the countries to understand the challenges and opportunities for growing a dasheen industry that can consistently produce high quality dasheen in an environmentally responsible and sustainable manner.
The FAO Caribbean’s Value Chain Methodology, which has had success in other Caribbean countries over the years, is to be applied during implementation of the projects and will also be a blueprint for building other industries in the region.
It is expected that the projects being launched will also improve livelihood opportunities and increase the potential for value-added production, whilst also promoting better production, a better environment, better nutrition and a better life for the countries’ people.
The projects fall within FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme and are expected to run over the next two years.
Other regional partners to be in attendance include the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Commission, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).