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Tuesday, January 24, 2006 

Issues affecting Caribbean agriculture sector take centre stage at COTED meeting


by Gordon FrenchCaribbean Net News Guyana Correspondent
Email: gordon@caribbeannetnews.com

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: Sustaining the Region's Agriculture sector in the face of mounting challenges, regionally and globally was the focus of a special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), convened by Lead Head on Agriculture, Guyana's President, Bharrat Jagdeo.

Hosted at the CARICOM headquarters at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown and attended by Regional Agriculture Ministers, the meeting was devoted to Agriculture and the acceleration of the implementation of the Jagdeo Initiative.

Sharing Guyana's experience with prevailing floods caused by heavy rainfall President Jagdeo incurred that the management of water and the mitigation of risks are crucial to the sustainability of agriculture.

"The two constraints that I am referring to are better risk management to ensure that farmers can mitigate some of the risks associated with flooding and of course, improve the water management, not just irrigation water, but improve the management of water on the whole to avoid some of the flooding," President Jagdeo said.

Similar weather patterns have resulted in difficulties for other CARICOM countries notably Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica.

Pointing to more difficulties within the region's agriculture sector, Secretary General of CARICOM, Edwin Carrington said that response to the needs in transportation, financing, land use and natural disasters is crucial. "

To secure a viable place in the international market, that we must be able to develop an agriculture sector which from investment to production, from production to markets, from markets to table, receives the necessary support to put it on a stronger and more secure footing," Carrington said.

Referring to the Agriculture sector as the "the rice and beans" for many Caricom countries, the CARICOM Secretary General said, "It is critical to our regional food security and to our reducing our 3.6 billion US dollar annual food import bill."

He said that recent events in the regional and external markets have served to highlight the need and urgency for action in the agricultural sector.

Carrington said that the agriculture sector must position itself to exploit the benefits of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME). Jamaica is expected to join the CSME in 9 days.
Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago have already signed on to provide opportunities and markets for the movement of goods, services and factors of production (Capital and skills) under the CSME.

The expectation is that six other Member States - Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines would expand the Single market by end of March 2006.

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