Agriculture experts and officials from throughout the region are in Cayman this week to address how to reduce food import bills and threats to flora in the region, among other issues.
The regional Caribbean Plant Health Directors Forum is held in a different country every year. Now in its seventh year, this is the first time that the Cayman islands is hosting the event.
At the four-day event at the Marriott Beach Resort, delegates from 34 countries and territories in the Caribbean, along with representatives of regional and international organizations, government entities and universities, are reviewing 42 items covering issues such as reliance on importing food, plant quarantine, invasive pests, plant quarantine regulations and safety issues.
Premier Alden McLaughlin and the minister responsible for agriculture. Kurt Tibbetts, welcomed the delegates to the Cayman Islands on Tuesday.
The premier stated how important it is to work together to share technical information in order to help eradicate and monitor threats to flora in the Caribbean.
In Cayman, he said, it is of special interest because agriculture has been a critical component of Caymanian existence since early settlers first lived off the land.
Mr. Tibbetts said the forum offers an opportunity to exchange new ideas and forge new relationships with regional neighbors.
“Agriculture issues encompass the cultural, economic and health concerns of everyone in the Cayman Islands,” he said. “As a result, we cannot overstate the importance of food and nutrition security. The central role of agriculture includes reducing our dependency on imports and providing fresh, healthy food choices.”
Because of the country’s vigilance in agriculture, he said, the Cayman Islands was recognized by the Greater Caribbean Safeguarding Initiative and the Caribbean Plant Health Directors as the recipient of the Inaugural GCSI Safeguarding Award last year.
In her opening remarks, Nisa Surujbally, program manager for agriculture and industry at CARICOM, said heads of government in the Caribbean recognize that agriculture plays a vital role in driving economic growth and development. She said regional government heads have advised that all current regional economics initiatives, including the Commission on the Economy, the Regional Transportation Commission and the Strategic Plan for the Caribbean Community – 2015-2019, explicitly focus on actions that will ensure that agriculture plays such a role.
“The agriculture agencies and institutions that support the development of the sector in the region and the CARICOM Secretariat have been strategizing to effectively address key issues such as targeted reduction of the food import bill by increasing food and nutrition security, increasing exports of identified commodities, increasing competitiveness and the alleviation of key binding constraints to agriculture,” she said.