Mottley wants region to cut food imports
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley has challenged CARICOM Heads of Government to formulate an interregional multi-sector policy that would reduce the US$4 billion food import bill by 25 per cent in 2023.
She made that call on Wednesday night at the opening ceremony for the 15th Caribbean Week Of Agriculture at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St Michael.
Mottley said the protection of regional agricultural industries was of paramount importance, especially in the wake of the threat that climate change and natural disasters posed to the Caribbean.
She said while tackling environmental changes with international countries could be beneficial, CARICOM states should not solely rely on external ideas to deal with regional challenges.
“There needs to be research with respect to international trade policy to allow us to be able to use food security as one of the primary weapons of defence for the protection of our agricultural sectors,” she said.
“Imagine if hurricanes Maria and Irma had hit Miami last year. Imagine the consequences to the logistic supply of food to the Caribbean. You have a national security crisis in the first four or five days if supplies are cut off . . . .
“I do not accept that it is beyond the capacity of the ministries of agriculture, finance, trade and transport in the region to at least work ourselves to a reduction of 25 per cent of our food import bill over the five years.”
The Prime Minister, who was scheduled to be at a special meeting in Bali, Indonesia, said she opted to attend the opening ceremony because of the significance of the event. She also said the mindset toward agriculture needed to change.
“Our relationship to agriculture cannot be that which it was when I was born or based on the plantation model . . . . It has to change by being able to attract technological solutions and innovation . . . our brightest and best students must see a future in agriculture as easily as they see a future on a stage.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley addressing the gathering at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture.