Dr. Irfaan Ali, President of Guyana and Lead Head for Agriculture, Agricultural Diversification and Food Security in CARICOM has announced a US 100M special concessional financing package. This was disclosed at the 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government in Belize. The solutions based proposal is aimed at reducing the region’s food import bill by 25% by 2025 – a target mandated by the CARICOM Heads of Government.
In his presentation, Dr. Ali highlighted that coffee, cocoa, spices, industrial hemp and palm oil are high value imports into CARICOM with the potential for development in the Region. Dr. Ali also noted that production needs to increase between 25% – 700% if food imports are to be reduced to meet the 2025 target. Commensurate with this will be the need for CARICOM member states to increase their expenditure to at least 5%. On average, CARICOM member states expends an estimated 2.1% of national expenditure on agriculture.
Access to finance continues to be a major constraint to agricultural production and expansion in the Caribbean. At the meeting President Ali announced significant progress was made to access financing for agricultural activities through the CARICOM Sustainability Agriculture Credit Facility. These funds can be accessed by all CARICOM member states for development of priority crops, capital equipment for farming, feeder roads, bulk storage of crops, processing plants and shade houses among other activities. The facility provides funding for up to five years for repaying up to G$2B to Guyana and US$100M to all CARICOM member states, with interest rates as low as 2.5 per cent.
In his presentation Dr. Ali reiterated the critical need for improved connectivity to foster easier movement of cargo within the Region.
The recommendations presented were adopted by the meeting with CARICOM heads pledging full support to the plan.