The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations will next week tackle the recent upsurge in food prices that has reach unprecedented levels in the Region.
Against the backdrop of the FAO Global Food Price Index, in January 2011, indicating that it had surpassed the high level reached in 2007- 2008, the FAO Sub-regional Office for the Caribbean, in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), has organised a Regional Consultation on Policy and Programmatic Actions to Address High Food Prices in the Caribbean, 13-14 June.
Trinidad and Tobago will host the Consultation which is aimed at assisting the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) to identify various options in the immediate, medium and long-term, in response to the crisis.
Recent efforts to address food security in CARICOM, included a full assessment of food prices by the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), at its Thirty-Second Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, 19-20 May 2011.
Against this backdrop, part of the agenda of the Consultation in Trinidad and Tobago focuses on existing policy measures to address the food crisis at regional and national levels.
The meeting will examine the CARICOM Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy (RFNSP), which is set in the context of a mix of linked national and regional policies including the Community Agricultural Policy (CAP), the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Caribbean Cooperation in Health (CCH) and the Community Agribusiness Strategy (CAS). These strategies and policies are in support of inter-connected services at all stages and levels of the agri-food supply chain; and increasing the availability and access to adequate quantities of safe, quality assured food products to vulnerable groups.
The RFNSP was endorsed by COTED in October 2010, in Grenada at its Special Meeting on Agriculture and has been viewed as a “milestone” in efforts to ensure food security in CARICOM/CARIFORUM states. It involved an innovative policy design process including a Technical Working Group (TWG) comprising officials of Member States, University of the West Indies (UWI), Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), the CARICOM Secretariat, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and FAO.
Given this existing policy framework for food security, stakeholders at the Consultation will attempt to confront the fundamental challenges related to the Food Import Bill and high food prices. They will also examine the policy and programme thrust that will work best to address the situation of volatile food prices. In addition, there will be comparative analysis of this latest situation with that of 2007-2008 and a review of policy lessons learn from that wave of the crisis.
It is anticipated that 16 Caribbean countries in FAO Caribbean sub-region (CARICOM Member States, Cuba and the Dominican Republic) will participate in the Consultation as well as regional inter-governmental organisations, development partners, bilateral donors, research institutions, the private sector and civil society organisations.