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Food Security among top priorities at Region Heads meeting

By: Staff Reporter,

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - AS the CARICOM is set to kick off its two-day Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads of Government today (Mar. 1), and one of the major topics of focus will be Food Security and the threat posed by the global pandemic on food and nutrition, as well as the reducing the food import bill.

That was confirmed by the Secretary-General of CARICOM, Dr. Carla Barnett, who told reporters that agriculture and its development would be thrust to the leaders.

In response to an SKNVibes News question on expected outcomes from the meeting, the Secretary-General said: “Critically, the issue of agriculture is on the agenda…The objective there is to place the community in a position to reduce the import of food into the community, taking into consideration that the pandemic and the disruption of shipping caused some uncertainty of food supply.”

The region has for many years sought to find ways of limiting the need for imported foods which have become both an economic and health crisis.

Data from back in 2018 showed that the region’s food import bill stood at US$3.7B, and that figure was expected to grow exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, this was evident from the onset of the pandemic where there was a high dependency on imported foods.

Despite pleas from health officials, there is still a focus on imported foods, which many believe is linked to attractive packaging and the high cost of locally-grown produce within the market.

Concerns have been raised over the years that the CARICOM meetings had only become one where matters are discussed but no significant outcomes are agreed upon with a structured approach for implementation.

But Dr. Barnett noted that significant progress on critical matters would be forthcoming from the meeting, unlike previous years where regional leaders came in for heavy criticism for the lack of concrete outcomes.

Dr. Barnett is optimistic that the regional leaders would craft plans for implementation coming out of the meeting in San Pedro, Belize.

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