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Technology to drive regional agricultural development

The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture has granted approval for the establishment of a virtual platform to allow for interchanges between extension services and farmers throughout the region.

The approval came at the 81st Special Meeting of the COTED in Belize City, Belize. The COTED wrapped up a series of activities and meetings that were held there from 30 September – 4 October 2019.

CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General for Trade and Economic Integration Joseph Cox said the platform would be established in association with the CARICOM Secretariat, the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Agency (CARDI).

CARICOM Assistant Secretary General — Trade and Economic Integration Joseph Cox
(Photo: CARICOM Today)

By way of example of how the platform is intended to work, Cox explained that a farmer in Belize who was encountering a challenge could raise the issue and receive responses, in real-time, from a farmer in St Vincent and the Grenadines who may have had experience with the particular problem.

It is envisaged as the sort of “strategic interchange to optimise yields”, the assistant secretary general said.

The use of technology in agriculture was one area of focus during the activities and delegates had the chance to see “the strategic and practical use” of drone technology during a field trip at the end of the week.

Diseases

During the activities in Belize, agriculture stakeholders had raised concerns about two diseases that had the potential for devastating consequences if they entered the Caribbean.

“… a farmer in Belize who was encountering a challenge could raise the issue and receive responses, in real-time, from a farmer in St Vincent and the Grenadines who may have had experience with the particular problem”

— CARICOM Assistant Secretary General — Trade and Economic Integration Joseph Cox

The far-reaching effects of African Swine Fever, and the lethal Tropical Race 4 (TR4) disease which affects bananas, were raised at the Regional Agricultural Planners’ Forum as well as at the COTED. Cox said that what made the African Swine Fever “particularly serious” was the fact that the disease had “already wiped out 50 per cent of the pig population” in China.

“We don’t have it in the Caribbean and so, therefore, we have to take this extremely seriously, because once it gets into our neck of the woods it can be … problematic because… what the experts have advised is that this disease is resistant to heat, chemical interventions, etc…,” Cox said.

A banana tree shows a symptom of the Tropical Race 4 Disease, otherwise called the Panama disease. (Photo: Australian Department of Agriculture)

The COTED issued declarations on both diseases.

Agriculture stakeholders also held discussions on the regional sugar industry, as well as on cannabis and how the region could strategically reposition itself in the current scenario, particularly with respect to the economic and financial opportunities that were opening up.

He said that the week of activities proved to be a “huge success”.

The approval came at the 81st Special Meeting of the COTED in Belize City, Belize. The COTED wrapped up a series of activities and meetings that were held there from 30 September – 4 October 2019.