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Region’s Agriculture Ministers meet

Region’s Agriculture Ministers meet

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The steps to be taken in light of the decrease in opportunities for the Caribbean agricultural sector was one of the main topics up for discussion, as over 200 stakeholders from around the region gathered here for the 8th edition of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture.{{more}}

Ministers of Agriculture or their representatives, along with a number of agricultural organizations and investors in the region, were all present at the Kingstown Methodist Church Hall on Monday, as the three-day session got underway with a number of meetings and round table discussions.

Most of these discussions sought alternatives to combat the skyrocketing food prices, trade liberalization and other issues which were affecting not only the availability and cost of food, but the vanishing markets with which the region had been previously been allowed to trade freely.

Meetings and discussions were not only held among ministers, but also in a youth forum, as well as between the media and agriculture officials, and a meeting of the Alliance (a number of agriculture focused organizations and groups), among others.

At Monday’s opening ceremony, local Minister of Agriculture Montgomery Daniel, speaking to the delegates, questioned if the region would be able to sustain itself without signing on to the much talked about Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), following the loss of preferential treatment in a number of markets.

He said that the regional leaders and policy makers must be focused and astute enough to ensure that the best way forward for the people of the region is chosen.

“I think the big question we should be asking ourselves is how are we to reposition ourselves to take advantage of the opportunities available under the EPA.”

“The EPA is now placed at our door steps. Can we not afford to sign these new agreements? Can we be competitive outside these new arrangements? What would be the consequence outside these new agreements?

The Minister noted that without the protection of such agreements, the region is and will continue to struggle in the international arena.

“Globalization and trade liberalization is raging havoc in our islands’ economies; St. Kitts and Nevis has already lost the sugar industry, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados have seen drastic reduction in their sugar industries. Here in St. Vincent and the wider Windward Islands, bananas, which was at one time the ‘Green Gold’, is fighting desperately to maintain a position of silver.” (JJ)