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T&T to Participate in Colombian Agricultural Promotion Training

T&T to Participate in Colombian Agricultural Promotion Training

Posted by Shanelle Weir on July 25, 2014

In the past two or three years one of this country’s most preferred tubers – the cassava –has gained a much greater profile by the Ministry of Food Production as it urges citizens to grow more food, with the rationale that more local produce would assist in reducing the more than $4 billion annual food import bill.

Over the years, even before that import bill dared reach close to $1 million that mantra has been repeated ad nauseam.

Cassava is in for even greater regional importance next week when the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), in collaboration with the Colombian government and the organisation CLAYUCA offers an international course on “Modern Technologies for Cassava production, Processing and Utilisation” to support the sustainable development of the cassava crop in the Greater Caribbean. 

The ACS is aware that most countries in the Caribbean region are currently facing challenge with the need to reduce the exceedingly high import bill required to meet the rising demands of their populations. 

To meet this challenge, countries in the region are designing and implementing “agricultural development policies” aimed at promoting the local production of foods that are widely consumed, and at the same time promoting increased consumption of locally produced foods. 

In this context, according to the ACS “cassava ranks high among the major crops produced and consumed in the region. It is an important source of cheap energy and it also has a good content of vitamins and minerals.” 

The cassava crop is generally produced, processed, consumed and marketed at the level of small rural communities. However, cassava has historically received little attention from donor communities, policymakers and national agricultural research and agricultural technology transfer systems. Purpose of this joint cassava initiative therefore is to assist in the formulation and implementation of policies to improve agricultural productivity, increase production and cultivated areas, develop new food products, introduce improved technologies for production, processing and marketing and develop new marketing systems. 

Trinidad and Tobago is one of 12 Caricom countries expected to participate in this project, which takes place in the Colombian city of Cali from July 28 through August 02, 2014. Other countries that have been invited are Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Lucia, St Kitts/Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname. 

Methodology of the training will include a combination of theoretical activities (conferences and keynote speakers), laboratory, greenhouse field demonstrations and visits to produce groups and cassava processing companies. Participants will receive a certificate from the ACS on completion. 

In her paper “Sustainable Development rooted in Agriculture” Ms Kariyma Baltimore, Trade Adviser of Trade Development and External Economic Relations at the ACS stated, “It has been acknowledged that the development of the agriculture sector will have significant and meaningful impact on domestic food production, food security, reduced dependence on food imports and overall economic and social welfare.” 

She wrote, “Agricultures is viewed as an important sector in most Greater Caribbean countries, especially in the light of the economic diversification which has occurred over the last decades and the emergence and growth of other sectors such as tourism and professional services. Some however, have strongly suggested that the agriculture sector within the Region is rapidly declining. 

“Yet, in recent times,” Baltimore added, “with the looming concerns of sustained food production, food security and food prices plaguing many greater Caribbean countries, there has been a resurgence of support and development focussed on agriculture.” 

She pointed out that this training initiative supported the argument that there must be a strengthening of agricultural development and offered to the region one avenue by which this can be addressed. “This initial step with cassava production training can be further advanced with a focus on other prominent agricultural products. The offshoots of such initiatives will not only have national reach, but also the potential for enhanced regional trade through agricultural trade, sectoral linkages and expansion of the agro-industry. 

“There must be recognition of the acute forward and backward linkages between agriculture, trade, economic growth and development. Growth in the agriculture sector has the possibility therefore of contributing to the expansion of the agro-processing industry, providing new avenues for innovation; providing alternative engines of growth, promoting local production and opportunities to substitute imports.” 

“Policies therefore, should address actions to tap the region’s competitive advantage, especially the wealth of its natural resources; attract more investment and increase the Region’s food production and food security; and call for a more integrated and comprehensive approach, in which trade policy plays a central role in conjunction with other sectoral, national and regional policies,” added Ms Baltimore. 

Baltimore summarised, “Agriculture is too important to the economic and social welfare of the Greater Caribbean Region and should not be allowed to slip into decline. 

“Agricultural development policies and initiatives in tandem with national development policies, as well as trade policies, should be developed, implemented and sustained in order to achieve enhanced economic growth and welfare for our Greater Caribbean nations.”

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