Caribbean must reduce its multimillion- dollar food import bill

San Jose, 20 July 2018 (IICA). Increasing food production in the Caribbean in order to reduce the region’s multimillion-dollar import bill, as well as decreasing poverty and improving nutrition for the local population, are some of the goals established by Didacus Jules as Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).

The head of the Caribbean regional integration mechanism identified the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as a strategic partner that can assist in achieving these objectives.

Jules participated in the Thirty-eighth Regular Meeting of the Executive Committee of IICA, an organization that promotes rural development in the Americas. During the meeting, which was held in Costa Rica, he and Manuel Otero, Director General of the Institute, signed a technical cooperation agreement aimed at strengthening value chains and agricultural health and food safety systems, as well as fostering the use of biotechnology in the Caribbean, among other critical issues for the agriculture sector.

“As small states, we tend to be at a disadvantage in multilateral agreements, but we have been organizing ourselves in order to prepare an action plan for agriculture in the region. Our food import bill has reached almost one billion dollars, and we must lower this cost,” stated Jules.

The OECS is an inter-governmental organization dedicated to economic harmonization and integration, protection of human and legal rights, and the encouragement of good governance among its ten member countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, British Virgin Islands, Anguilla and Martinique.

The head of the OECS, who holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Wisconsin and is a well-known advocate for the Caribbean’s creative and intellectual potential, emphasized the fact that the objective to reduce the annual food import bill of approximately one billion dollars extends beyond an economic scope.

“This is not merely a matter of paying less, because we know that food security plays a very important role in combating poverty,” stated Jules, who indicated that agriculture could become a valuable source of jobs and prosperity.

The officer added that agricultural development in the Caribbean would also have a very positive impact on public health, given the fact that much of the food that is imported is directly related to certain chronic illnesses. “In fact, we have one of the highest rates of diabetes and high blood pressure, which points directly to our eating habits,” he explained.