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The question of agriculture and fisheries in the Caribbean development has been one that has been argued well before independence for a number of Caribbean countries – the ability to feed the people of the Region. With year-round suitable temperature and land availability, the region has suffered from underdevelopment of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries. 

In fact, food and basic agricultural produce represent major import items for the region and create a strain on foreign reserves.

Michael Manley, as Prime Minister of Jamaica, developed the slogan “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat”. He was one who championed the development of local agriculture and livestock.  It never really caught on in Jamaica or in other Caribbean countries.  Some countries took pride in the availability of foreign food items and sometimes considered it progress to have the same products and produce available in the Western developed countries.

One year ago, when the global pandemic of COVID struck, the social-economic impact of regional food insecurity generated grave concern. There were talks with CARICOM and the World Food Program as to what regional policies should entail. Studies and surveys were conducted which provided information to assist the region in making informed decisions.

The pandemic crisis exposed in a greater way the inequalities with respect to employment, food, and other needs. Those living in poverty and facing vulnerability felt it the most, and then food insecurity increased. The crisis highlighted the need to address the problem of the gap in the food system and the need to promote more local production.

We are happy to see CARICOM and many of the leaders in various Caribbean countries are taking on this issue of local food production and promoting agriculture as part of this effort. Governments, regional institutions, and the private sector must now come together to get the region on track to the sustainable development of food production in region.

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