Regional Agriculture Ministers Meet in Kingston


A two-day meeting of agriculture ministers from the Caribbean got underway today (Jan.13) at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston.
The event, which will have as its focus, ‘Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Development of Agriculture and the Rural Milieu’, also attracted stakeholders from Latin America.
Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke, in his remarks at the opening, said the meeting served to bring together under one umbrella, “the major stakeholders, ministers, private sector, academia, and youth”.
He also commended the participation of rural groups in the meeting, including women, noting that rural agriculture was a key point of discussion for the conference. He said it was envisaged that, “the rural sectors would have a common vision, and a clear understanding of each others’ roles, so that the benefits of the individual skills, experiences and resources could be optimised”.
According to Minister Clarke, a major agenda item was the document on ‘Strengthening Regional Agriculture for Sustainable Growth and Development: A Proposed Framework for Repositioning the Agricultural Sector.’ “Once an agreement is arrived,” he said, “a summary of the proposals and recommendations would be presented to President (Bharrat) Jagdeo of Guyana, the lead (CARICOM negotiator) for Agriculture, for his consideration and subsequently that of the colleague heads.”
Also up for discussion, he informed, was the establishment of a system to minimise the effects of natural disasters on the sector. This comes against the background of last year’s active hurricane season, which caused setbacks in production targets, and the tsunami in South Asia.
Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), Dr. Chelston Brathwaite, told those gathered that the forum was an important mechanism towards Caribbean integration and solidarity in agricultural pursuits.
He also remarked that given the reality of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and its potential impact on the region in terms of the pricing of produce, it was critical that a middle ground be found where small countries could co-exist productively alongside larger countries.
Meanwhile, in his address to the ceremony, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, K.D. Knight, said the agricultural sector within CARICOM countries continued to be affected by a number of change agents in the international trading system.
These, he said, included the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations; the European Union’s (EU) attempt to develop a common agricultural policy; reform of the EU’s banana import regime to bring it into compliance with the WTO; and the FTAA negotiations.
Turning to the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), the Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister noted that while the single market was to be brought into effect in all participating member states by January 2006, and the single economy in January 2008, “we are aware that the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas pays particular attention to agriculture and makes provision for an agricultural policy as well as subsidies to agriculture.”
He noted further that, “other provisions in the revised treaty also serve to reinforce measures geared towards the growth and transformation of agriculture in the region.such as natural resources management, including forestry and fisheries management and the marketing of agricultural goods.”

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