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POST #9: The Local Agri-Sector in CARICOM: for better or for worse?
by Afiya De Sormeaux, Junior Consultant, CaRAPN

Correct me if I'm wrong, but are we really investing as much as we should in the agricultural sector in CARICOM? The official cries for producing local, and consuming local by government ministers and their spokespersons have been a continuous echo throughout the course of time. However, empirically speaking, there have been concomitant (simultaneously occurring) variations with respect to food imports, local production, changes in the economy and the calls for producing more locally. From Tanzania to India, Europe to Uganda, many authors have repeated that agriculture is the backbone of any economy. Therefore, it is the job of any government to nurture local production. But I always ask: to what end? Governments continuously suggest that they are investing in local production to increase agricultural output and provide infrastructural change for the improvement of the sector with, to me, no real purposeful objective in mind. Simultaneously, we see an increase in output of the local agricultural sector in the Caribbean is followed by an almost exponential increase in imports. How is it that local production is supposed to be heard by consumers if for every one Julie mango, there is an endless supply of apples? Again, From Russia to Germany, from the US to Italy, we know that agriculture and farmers played a major role in the Second World War. That is the strength of agriculture. However in CARICOM, as officials suggest that greater investment has been achieved in agriculture, we see small farmers being put out of business and rural agrarian economies plummeting because the vital part of the rural puzzle no longer exists. How is it that politicians are being mandated to secure our food supply but escape their responsibilities? Why is it that rural communities find themselves going to purchase food from outside the region rather than from a local farmer? While there have been valiant efforts to justly improve the agriculture sector within CARICOM, what I can say is; there has been a lot of 'convenient' investments to wow the population. A recent example is the fact that Trinidad is now producing onions in its Tucker Valley mega farms (Read it here: http://www.trinidadexpress.com/news/T_T_s_food_import_bill_reaches__4b142416755.html). To what end? Can onions feed Trinidad or improve food and nutrition security somehow? Is this the best use of resources for the stated objective? Further, improvement in one area does not mean that there is overall improvement. Input supplies are monopolized, target areas by officials may not be the best areas to target and investments may not be made in the right areas. The Regional Food and Nutrition Policy in its entirety suggests that we PAY ATTENTION to the vital role that the agriculture sector plays to ensure a healthy population with a stable supply of food. But then again, in a region fighting to reach ‘developed nation’ status, I guess importing most of our food is the consequence. Well, correct me if I'm wrong

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