Assistant Secretary General — Caribbean Community Jospeh Cox (File photo)

Caricom ASG unveils 25 in 5: Reducing the region’s food import bill by 25% in 5 years

Assistant Secretary General — Caribbean Community Jospeh Cox (File photo)

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has committed to lowering the region’s US$5-billion food import bill by 25 per cent in the next five years (25 in 5) as it implements ifs food and nutrition programmes.

Sacks of rice sit stacked inside a State Logistics Agency (Bulog) warehouse in Karawang Regency, West Java, Indonesia, on Saturday, April 6, 2019. Indonesia’s government is set to export rice for the first time in more than a decade — not because the country has turned in a bumper harvest but because it’s been importing the grain based on faulty data collection, resulting in an oversupply of stocks. Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg

As part of its strategies to achieve this goal, Caricom will be creating a framework that involves collaborating with the private sector and international donor partners, with the support of multilateral partners, particularly in the areas of policy Intervention, institutional strengthening, investment, and sector financing.

According to Joseph Cox, assistant secretary-general (ASG), Trade and Economic Integration, the 25 in 5 plan will focus on galvanising Multilateral Action to Prevent the Health Crisis from Becoming a Food Crisis — a subject matter he addressed during a Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)-hosted webinar on 23 July 2020.

The Caricom ASG told participants that the region has achieved encouraging results with its food and nutrition security strategies; however, the COVID-19 pandemic further highlights the need to ensure affordable access to food. To clarify, he pointed out that while there was no shortage of food in the region, but there was a “misalignment of supply and demand” due to supply chain disruptions.

From a food security and nutrition adequacy perspective, Cox said, the region was highly dependent on food imports such as wheat, animal feeds and a range of processed foods. As a result, Caricom must ensure that the supply chain for key products continues uninterrupted, even while seeking opportunities for import substitution, he argued.

There is no shortage of food in the region, but there was a “misalignment of supply and demand” due to supply chain disruptions. (Photo: Caricom Today)

“CARICOM countries must have plans in place to safeguard against these realities ever becoming a serious challenge or threat to our food security,” the Assistant Secretary-General said.

He emphasised further that the 25 in 5 plan was not just a slogan but an imperative that had to be addressed within the context of food insecurity among Caricom members. That insecurity, he pointed out, was currently being fuelled by a high food import bill, high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), and the adverse consequences of climate change and extreme weather