Caribbean Governments To Fight Rising Food Costs

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
December 10, 2007 (CUOPM)

Several measures have been proposed by CARICOM leaders for implementation to address mounting food prices which are being fuelled by a number of factors including rising oil prices; adverse weather conditions and natural disasters, and the shift in agricultural production from food to bio fuels.

Measures that were outlined to mitigate the effects of price increases at the 12th Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in Guyana on Friday include a pledge to proceed urgently with the transformation of agriculture, particularly the Jagdeo Initiative.

The CARICOM Secretariat will immediately establish a Technical Team which will review a basket of food and non-food items, common to the baskets in all Member States and which attract a Common External Tariff (CET).

The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) will then make a decision on the reduction or removal of the CET from this regional basket as early as January 2008.It was also agreed that an Expert CARICOM Team on Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary Measures (SPS) will be set up immediately to undertake a rapid assessment of the readiness of Member States to export selected food items and the preparedness of Member States to import those items from within the Region.

Member States will also institute social interventions targeting the most vulnerable groups, including children, as a feasible short-term measure; take advantage of the offer by the Government of Guyana to nationals of Member States, of access to land for the pursuit of agricultural production, including agro-processing and carry out further research and analysis on the issue of rising cost of living and poverty in Member States on which to base further decisions and implementation of recommendations.

This will be accompanied by a major consumer public education campaign to be undertaken in order to equip the population to “˜shop smart, buy regional and eat healthy.’

CARICOM Leaders also urge stronger efforts to forge linkages between agriculture and tourism as well as national school-feeding programmes to promote the use of domestic produce as part of good nutrition and will hold an Agriculture Investment Forum in the first quarter of 2008 which is critical for meeting the objectives of increased production in the Region.

With respect to energy, Heads of Government recognise the rising cost of energy impacts on all aspects of the cost of living and production, and note that its cost is significantly influenced both by the world price and by national fiscal measures. Work which is already being undertaken in the Region in the area of renewable energy will be intensified.

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