To mark the official release of the study World Markets for Organic Fruit and Vegetables: Opportunities for Developing Countries in the Production and Export of Organic Horticultural Products, FAO, in close collaboration with partner organizations, organized a three-day Conference on Supporting the Diversification of Exports in the Caribbean/Latin American Region through the Development of Organic Horticulture.
Partners to the Conference included the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Centre for the Development of Enterprise (CDE), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), CABI Bioscience (A Division of CAB International) and the International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC). We wish to thank them all for their support.
Many persons contributed to the success of the Conference. In particular, we wish to acknowledge the assistance of personnel of the FAO Representation and the Ministries of Food Production and Marine Resources and of National Security in Trinidad and Tobago.
We are also indebted to a number of our service providers who assisted us in meeting very difficult deadlines.
The Conference was held at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre and consisted of two days of plenary sessions; during the third day, five simultaneous roundtables took place.
The opening ceremony was chaired by Mr David W. Bowen, FAO Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname. Addresses were given by Dr H. Arlington D. Chesney, Director of the Caribbean Regional Centre and Representative in Trinidad and Tobago of IICA, Mr Gary Aylmer, Head of the Caribbean Field Office of the CDE, Ms Isolina Boto, Head of the Seminars and Studies Department of CTA, Dr Moses Kairo of CABI Bioscience (A Division of CAB International), Trinidad and Tobago.
The feature address was delivered by Senator Dr The Honourable Jennifer Jones-Kernahan, Minister for Food Production and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago.
Mr Swallay Mohammed, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Food Production and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago, gave the vote of thanks.
Mr David Bowen, FAO Representative for Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Trinidad and Tobago
Mr Chairman; Senator Dr The Honourable Jennifer Jones-Kernahan, Minister for Food Production and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago; Mr Swallay Mohammed, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Food Production and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago; Dr H. Arlington D. Chesney, Director, Caribbean Regional Centre and Representative in Trinidad and Tobago, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture; Mr Gary Aylmer, Head, Caribbean Field Office, Centre for the Development of Enterprise; Ms Isolina Boto, Head, Seminars and Studies Department, Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation; Dr Moses Kairo, Director, CABI Bioscience, CAB International; Members of the Diplomatic Corps and of International and Regional Organizations; Specially Invited Guests; Ladies and Gentlemen; Conference Delegates; Members of the Media.
It is with great pleasure that I have come to the opening of this Conference on Supporting the Diversification of Exports in the Caribbean/Latin American Region through the Development of Organic Horticulture. This meeting is jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the Centre for the Development of Enterprise. The Conference is also being supported by the International Trade Centre, CAB International and co-hosted by the Ministry of Food Production and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago. I would like to thank all these partner organizations for their support.
The convening of this symposium illustrates the importance that the various institutions working in development assistance and the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago are giving to organic horticulture and organic farming in general.
The Conference will focus on the market situation and outlook for organic horticultural products and on ways in which countries in the Region can take advantage of potential market opportunities. It will cover the main issues related to the marketing of organic horticultural products, including outlets, logistics, certification and standards. Some production issues will also be addressed as they relate to exports. The debates will focus on the specific situation of the Caribbean and Latin American countries.
FAO closely monitors international commodity developments, including the emergence of new market segments. We assist countries and the private sector in obtaining reliable information on agricultural production and trade in order to facilitate efforts towards export diversification and a better equilibration between supply and demand.
Since the mid-1990s, the market for organic foods has been expanding rapidly and, among these products, organic fruit and vegetables have been growing the fastest. In order to help countries make informed decisions on these market opportunities, FAO has carried out, in collaboration with ITC and CTA, a major study on organic fruit and vegetables. This Conference marks the official release of this 312-page publication titled World Markets for Organic Fruit and Vegetables: Opportunities for Developing Countries in the Production and Export of Organic Horticultural Products. You will find a copy of this publication in English in your satchels. Spanish and French versions are still in preparation and will be mailed in a few weeks to participants who request them.
The publication provides detailed information on demand for organic fruit and vegetables in the world's largest organic markets (United States, Japan and European countries), including data on sales and imports. The data were obtained through recent surveys carried out in each country specifically for this publication. In addition to the current market situation, the study analyses the prospects for further growth in sales in the short and medium term.
Moreover, it provides case studies of seven developing countries, which have established an organic export sector or are in the process of doing so. The publication gives recommendations on which product categories are likely to provide market opportunities to developing countries.
Based on the data collected, it can be estimated that total sales of organic fruit and vegetables exceeded US$3 billion in the 12 markets studied in 2000. The market surveys carried out for this study indicate fast growth in sales of organic fruit and vegetables in most of the developed countries. Sales values were found to increase in most markets at annual rates generally ranging between 20 and 30 percent during the last years of the 1990s.
Particularly high growth rates have recently been observed in the United Kingdom and in Italy. For example, in Italy, organic fruit and vegetable retail sales have grown at an annual rate of about 85 percent during the period 1998-2000. Although such high growth rates are not likely to persist, the market survey of Italy shows increased public awareness of, and demand for organic fresh produce.
Similarly, sales of organic fruit and vegetables, both in the United States, Germany and Japan are rising. There are exceptions to this trend, though. In Austria and Denmark, both countries with a well established organic market and a relatively high organic market share, organic food sales were found to be in a low or no-growth rate situation.
One should bear in mind that the organic sector is still a niche in the total food sector. Market shares of organic foods were found in most countries to be around one percent of total food sales. Somewhat higher figures are found in Austria and Switzerland with estimated organic shares of respectively, 1.8 percent and 2 percent. The organic market share in Denmark is estimated at almost three percent of total food sales, probably the highest in the world.
The share of organic sales in the fruit and vegetable sector is somewhat higher than the share of organic sales in total food sales. In most countries, organic shares in fresh fruit sales are estimated at about three to five percent, whereas for vegetable sales the organic shares are estimated at up to ten percent in the United Kingdom and Switzerland. Organic fruit and vegetables offer some opportunities for developing countries. Domestic production of organic products in developed countries is expected to rise within the next few years (there is usually a time lag of three years between conversion and production of certified organic produce), but it is unlikely to meet demand for most products.
However, important constraints must be taken into account. Consumers' preference for locally or regionally produced organic fruit and vegetables indicates that the best opportunities are in counterseasonal fresh organic temperate zone produce and tropical products. For products that cannot be produced in the colder climates in northern developed countries (e.g. oranges, kiwis, etc.) most organic supply tends to come from producing countries close to these markets. Basic requirements for success include a more competitive producer and FOB (free on board) price while meeting at least the organic and phytosanitary standards and providing the same quality as conventional products.
More details on the findings of the study will be presented to you by some of its authors this morning.
We at FAO join you in looking forward to a highly successful conference.
Dr H. Arlington D. Chesney, Director, Caribbean Regional Centre and Representative in Trinidad and Tobago, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Trinidad and Tobago
It gives me great pleasure to bring you greetings from the Director General, Dr Carlos Aquino and staff of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture in general, and the Caribbean Regional Centre, in particular, to this “Conference on Supporting the Diversification of Exports in the Caribbean/Latin American Region Through the Development of Organic Horticulture.”
IICA, which has an office in each of the 34 countries in the Americas, is committed to supporting the re-definition and re-engineering of traditional agriculture into the more holistic agrifood/product system. We recognize the need to provide stakeholders with information and training, which can empower them to identify, grasp and maximize the new opportunities that exist for diversifying and expanding exports and contribute to improving the sustainability of the agrifood chain.
Hence, when FAO representatives approached IICA to collaborate in the organization and management of this Conference, we saw an opportunity and grasped it. The programme outlined complemented existing IICA programmes in the Caribbean and Latin America region and provided yet another forum for focusing IICA's resources and that of our key national, regional and international strategic partners in supporting the diversification and transformation of the agrifood/product system into a more competitive and dynamic industry that can respond effectively to the international trends of globalization, trade liberalization and the formation of major trading blocks.
Of course, IICA recognizes, like so many national governments and strategic partners, that these goals must be achieved in the context of social equity and environmental friendliness.
The growth in the demand for products arising from organic horticulture is driven by increased consumer interest in food safety, which is linked to the adoption of healthy lifestyles. The term “organic” connotates that the produce or product is “natural” and therefore the methods applied in the production process are as close to nature as is possible or are devoid of the use of synthetic, harmful inputs. The entire production, processing, distribution continuum must therefore exemplify the “naturalness” of the system and be verified and certified as having followed the “organic process.” Therein lays the challenge for the Caribbean and other organic producers. The market and the technology must be properly assessed.
Knowing the requirements of the market and obtaining training to implement the measures to ensure that the requirements can be met, are prerequisites for achieving success. The technology for complying with the organic standards must be developed or acquired, disseminated to stakeholders and adopted. Additionally, governments must put an adequate legislative framework in place to support the process.
IICA recognizes that all these issues will be dealt with in sufficient depth at this Conference. We therefore challenge the industry leaders and policy-makers who are present to reflect carefully on the papers presented. You can be assured that IICA is willing to, and shall continue to work along with stakeholders in the development and implementation of strategies which seek to improve the capacity of countries to respond effectively and efficiently to the changing demands of competing in the global market.
We wish to thank FAO for having invited us to collaborate with them. We also wish to thank CPEC - the Caribbean regional human resource development programme for economic competitiveness, for collaborating with IICA in funding the participation of ten representatives from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to this meeting and the IICA post Conference workshop on competitiveness. We challenge the 22 persons whom IICA has supported and all the other participants to be attentive and deliberate well on the proceedings over the ensuing three days to ensure a successful outcome.
On behalf of the Director General, Regional Directorates and staff of IICA in general, and the Caribbean region in particular, congratulations to the organizing committee and best wishes for a successful Conference.
Mr Gary Aylmer, Head, Caribbean Field Office, Centre for the Development of Enterprise (CDE), Dominican Republic
I always knew that it would be difficult to follow distinguished speakers. Now that I have heard their excellent remarks, the only virtue that I can offer is to be brief.
When the Centre for the Development of Enterprise was invited to join with FAO, IICA, CABI and our sister organization, CTA, in sponsoring this important event, we were delighted on two counts.
Firstly, we were happy to be associated with such a team of what I call “heavy hitters.”
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, is that it is an indication that our respective organizations have recognized that in order for the region to reach its potential for exporting organic produce, a coordinated approach would be necessary that should include not only the supporting agencies working together, but also governments, organic producer organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and, most importantly, the private-sector companies themselves.
A Unique Opportunity
As we look around today, it is clear that this is a unique opportunity that has brought together all the elements necessary to make a significant impact: the key people, important and up-to-date information, a strong work programme and, most importantly, sufficient time over the coming days to debate the issues, to learn and to meet each other both formally and informally.
We have all been given a tremendous opportunity to gain from this important Conference.
The Centre for the Development of Enterprise
Taking the Centre for the Development of Enterprise as one example, we have a mandate to assist the private sector. This includes not only the producers and exporters themselves, but also the Organic Associations and other support structures such as the Chambers of Commerce and consultants providing expertise to companies.
Clearly, this is an opportunity to make our services more widely known to an increasingly important sector.
The Centre has a track record of over 24 years of experience working with private-sector food processors in the Caribbean. Each year we work with over 100 companies in all sectors to help with technical, marketing and financial problems. This ranges from feasibility studies and searches for finance to joint ventures and expansion into new products and markets.
We are here not only to offer our services but also to listen carefully to what governments, the presenting experts and especially the private sector have to say.
The problems and concerns that are expressed, the specific needs of companies and associations and also the opportunities that are identified will be taken into account. We will then incorporate these as far as possible into our programme of assistance during the coming year.
The high level of interest in this Conference and the seniority of the participants have already given a strong indication that both the timing and context of the Conference is right.
It is a matter of some pride to all the organizers that you have agreed to spend three days of your valuable time here with us. We can assure you that none of us consider that our task is now over. Rather, it will give us a clearer focus upon how we can best assist you in the future.
The Main Challenge
Finally, I must say that of the many issues that will be raised during the coming days, I believe that the real challenge and also opportunity for producers and exporters of organic products from the island and mainland countries of the Caribbean is that of working together. You are already competing with the rest of the world and can only succeed by cooperating with each other to make the Caribbean the preferred source of organics for buyers from Europe, the United States and also Japan.
This has been rather harshly stated over 200 years ago, perhaps in another context. “If you do not hang together, then you will certainly hang separately.”
I am looking forward immensely to being able to stop talking and start listening to the expert speakers and, this being the Caribbean, especially to sharing the lively and entertaining debates that will follow.
Mr Chairman, thank you for your patience. On behalf of the Centre for the Development of Enterprise, I would like to thank all of you for coming and sharing your valuable time and experience with us at this Conference.
Ms Isolina Boto, Deputy Head, Seminars and Studies Department, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Netherlands
First of all, on behalf of CTA's Director, Mr Carl Greenidge and on behalf of all my colleagues, I would like to welcome you to this international Conference and to thank you for being with us.
For those who do not know CTA, I would like to give you a quick overview of our main programmes and on our interest in this issue of organic production.
The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) was established in 1983 under the Lomé Convention between the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Group of States and the European Union Member States. Since the year 2000, it has operated within the framework of the ACP-EC Cotonou Agreement, signed for a duration of 20 years.
Our headquarters is in The Netherlands and we also have a small office in Brussels. CARDI (Caribbean Agricultural Research and Developing Institute) is our regional office for the Caribbean region.
CTA's tasks are to develop and provide services that improve access to information for agricultural and rural development and to strengthen the capacity of ACP countries to produce, acquire, exchange and utilize information in this area. CTA's programmes are organized around four themes:
- developing information management and partnership strategies needed for policy formulation and implementation;
- promoting contact and exchange of experience: CTA is organizing and co-organizing conferences, seminars, workshops, study-visits on agricultural and rural development information priority themes for the various ACP stakeholders involved in agricultural and rural development;
- providing ACP partners with information on the main issues and changes through publications and co-publications, the bimonthly bulletin Spore and more recently, an increased support to electronic publications; and
- strengthening information and communication capacities through an important training programme.
The main priority themes for CTA are:
- intensification and optimization of production,
- natural resources management and the environment, and
- the promotion and access of ACP agricultural products to local, regional and international markets, including the support to diversification policies and new niche markets. This is clearly the substance of this conference.
CTA's involvement in organic production is recent but is increasing:
As you are aware, the main objective of the Cotonou Agreement is poverty alleviation and sustainable development with an emphasis on trade and smooth integration of ACP economies within the world trade system.
Organic production touches such important issues as poverty reduction, food security, food safety, diversification alternatives, income-generating activities for small- and medium-scale farmers and a better access to regional and international markets, mainly through exports from ACP countries.
Although we believe that organic agriculture may sound as a good opportunity for some developing countries to develop new production and access new markets, there is still a lot to do in terms of information on the constraints and potentials that organic production really entails for small farmers who want to convert into organic.
There is an urgent need to support the dissemination of phytosanitary rules and regulations needed to access the main northern markets, set up local or regional certification programmes or strengthen existing ones, initiate or support existing capacity building programmes, as well as promote the exchange of information through workshops and seminars.
- CTA co-organized and co-funded with INIBAP and CABI a workshop on Organic Banana in the Caribbean, in the Dominican Republic in 1999 which looked at production, quality, certification and marketing constraints and potentials. The publication of the main findings is available at this Conference.
- CTA has supported about ten publications in French, English and Spanish on various aspects of organic production - ecofarming practises, producing food without pesticides, the EU regulations on organic farming, etc., including sensitization articles in our Spore bulletin.
- CTA co-financed with FAO and ITC, the Study on World Markets for Organic Fruit and Vegetables: Opportunities for Developing Countries in the Production and Export of Organic Horticultural Products through the funding of six case studies in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific regions. The objective being, to provide a source of information to the developing countries interested in converting to organic or developing their exports.
- We thought it would be useful to provide a forum for discussion and exchange on the results of these studies and related topics by organizing this Conference in which CTA is funding the participation of 25 participants from the Caribbean region.
Another important programme at CTA is the partnership and networking programme that aims to increase the impact of the support provided and the range of beneficiaries. This Conference is a good example of partnership.
In this context, I would like to extend my great appreciation to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for hosting this Conference. We are all very pleased to be in such a beautiful island.
I also take the opportunity to thank all my colleagues who have put tremendous efforts in the organization of this event, my FAO colleagues in Rome, Paul Pilkauskas, Pascal Liu and Bart Vrolijk and the very efficient team in the regional office in Trinidad and Tobago headed by Mr David Bowen with the precious assistance of Marion Alleyne and her colleagues. My colleagues from ITC, CDE, IICA and CABI and CARDI with whom it has been a pleasure to work.
I wish also to thank the European Union Delegations in the various Caribbean countries which have been very supportive in identifying and funding delegates to this conference.
The number of registered participants already demonstrates the relevance of the topic, but the success of this Conference will depend on your participation and input.
CTA's support to future events and to follow-up activities will depend on the conclusions and recommendations you will make. I do hope this Conference will be fruitful for all of us.
I thank you for your attention.
Dr Moses Kairo, Director, CABI Bioscience: A Division of CAB International, Caribbean and Latin American Centre, Trinidad and Tobago
It gives me great pleasure to bring you greetings from the Director General of CABI, Dr Denis Blight. CAB International is very pleased to be associated with this Conference, which addresses a salient and most important aspect of agricultural development.
Ladies and gentlemen, about 40 years ago, a book written by a Marine Biologist named Rachel Carson was published. This book has been voted to be one of the most influential scientific books over the last half of the century. Despite sharp criticisms from government and private sector, the fears Rachel Carson expressed regarding the negative impact of DDT, one of the premiere insecticides of the day were proven correct. This was a wake-up call as people began to realize that these chemicals would not provide the proverbial silver bullet many were hoping for.
Since then, programmes on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) began to appear in various parts of the world and in recent years these have been further expanded. Words like 'environment' and 'sustainability' began assuming a stronger and more urgent meaning. Against this background, the world's population continues to grow and the challenges associated with feeding the global population have become even tougher.
More immediately, we are faced with the problem of providing 'healthy' food to meet the exponentially growing demand. In the longer term there are problems on how to meet future food needs.
Clearly there is a need to find solutions to these challenges and to address the growing problems associated with poverty. It is also true that many small-scale farmers, growing traditional crops, such as bananas, are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in a liberalized global market. Such farmers also need alternatives.
Organic farming seeks to address some of these concerns, by developing productive farms which are sustainable and harmonious with the environment. Thus, the approach prevents further deterioration of the natural resources that we all depend upon.
Despite the long history of organic production, it is only during the last ten years or so that some countries in the Caribbean and Latin America region have witnessed growth in the organic sector.
Now there is an urgent need to nurture this development to encompass a wide range of crops, not only for export, but, to satisfy local needs as well. To do this, many challenges will have to be surmounted. Countries will need to develop necessary policy frameworks including legislation, support mechanisms for farmers, farmer training, etc.
This Conference brings together a diverse group of people representing key players in the farm-to-table chain. There are those with experience of growing and marketing organic produce, and these seek to learn more, develop productive linkages, or, just to share their knowledge. Then there are those who are interested in organic production and have come to learn. With such a diverse group I am sure the meeting will bridge the gap between mere words and true action effectively.
CABI is committed to bring its collective capacity in science, information and knowledge dissemination to support development of this important sector. We anticipate building stronger partnerships with various stakeholders.
I thank you all and wish you a productive conference.
Senator Dr The Honourable Jennifer Jones-Kernahan, Minister for Food Production and Marine Resources, Trinidad and Tobago
Mr Chairman, distinguished guests at the head table, representatives of the diplomatic corps, learned scientists, esteemed farmers, ministry staff, ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed my pleasure to address you at this very special occasion. My Government and Ministry are particularly pleased to co-host this Conference on “Supporting the Diversification of Export in the Caribbean and Latin American Region through the Development of Organic Horticulture.”
My Ministry is committed to the sustainable management of our resources and particularly to the conservation of its agricultural land and water resources. Policy goals and objectives are clearly enunciated in the recently published “Sector Policy for Food Production and Marine Resources 2001 - 2005.” In that document, my Ministry clearly outlined its responsibility for promoting efficient farm production, processing and marketing of farm products.
My Ministry, like its counterparts in the Caribbean and Latin America, is faced with the challenges of facilitating maximum farm output, while simultaneously minimizing the negative effect that farm production may have on the environment and human health. These must be achieved through instituting relevant scientific analysis, through employment of the most appropriate technology and through conformity to sound management practices.
In this context, the governments of the region are ever cognizant of the impact agricultural food production practices can have on:
- the quality of land
- on biological diversity
- on human health, where emphasis is now placed on food and health safety standards
- on the quality of fresh water and the marine environment
Further, in our quest for the achievement of national food and nutrition security, we as governments, remain mindful that sustainability of food production efforts can be adversely affected by a number of factors, including:
- natural disasters
- pests and diseases
- inappropriate farming practices, and
- environmental degradation
My Ministry, therefore, recognizes the need to address these issues through:
- appropriate research and development
- development and/or enhancement of the institutional framework, and
- collaborative efforts of all our stakeholders and cooperation with personnel in other countries.
As a consequence, we in Trinidad and Tobago have vigorously pursued efforts in the arena of information systems, alternative technologies, training, farmer participatory approaches and integrated pest management, including management of the Hibiscus mealybug and the sugar-cane froghopper which is a debilitating pest of our most important crop, sugar cane.
As you are aware, Trinidad and Tobago has traditionally been an exporter of cocoa, coffee, sugar cane and coconuts, among others, mainly under preferential trade arrangements. In the last several years, this country has steadily increased the export of vegetable commodities such as sweet peppers, watermelons, mangoes, pumpkin, cucumber, pineapple and paw paw. Most recently, our exporters have penetrated niche markets in North America and Europe with demand for a range of traditionally produced horticulture commodities.
Now, new international trade developments present significant challenges (and opportunities), threatening as they do, to erode the availability of preferential markets for our products and demanding increased food safety standards. The unfolding global scenario clearly underscores the need for countries such as ours, to diversify into high value areas in which some comparative advantage may be evident.
Ladies and gentlemen, my Ministry, against this background, has been following with great interest recent developments in organic horticulture. As such, in the organization, support and promotion of sustainable systems, the positive impact that production systems such as organic horticulture, can have on the environment has been taken aboard in the planning process.
The information available to me suggests that organic horticulture is a holistic production and management system that promotes and enhances:
- agro eco-system health
- biodiversity conservation
- biological cycles, and
- soil biological activity
The practise of organic horticulture is environmentally friendly and is based on specific and precise standards of production, processing and marketing so as to maintain the integrity of the product.
My Government applauds this initiative of FAO, CTA and IICA and I am also pleased that Trinidad and Tobago has been selected to hold this Conference. Perusal of the agenda suggests, that for the next few days, you will be treating with many issues that impact critically on the diversification of exports in the Caribbean and Latin America region through the development of organic horticulture.
This Conference is, therefore, timely and relevant as my country and countries of the region embark on plans to tackle the challenging problems that we confront in our efforts at achieving sustainability in our agriculture.
We note that since 1999, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has published its “Guidelines for the Production, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods,” and that these Guidelines, with some modifications, will likely be adopted as mandatory standards.
In that context, Trinidad and Tobago, and indeed the wider CARICOM and Latin American region, will need to put in place, the wherewithal for our producers, processors and exporters to take advantage of the opportunities which organic horticulture presents. International food safety standards are equally valid for conventionally and organically produced agricultural items.
And so, in relation to these guidelines, our countries must be able to satisfy requirements related to the rules of production and preparation; labelling and claims; inspection and certification; and the use of permitted substances at the primary- and post-harvest stages of activities.
We recognize also, that new institutional, legislative and administrative arrangements must be in place if our countries are to benefit from the opportunities provided through the increasing demand for organically-produced products.
In the case of Trinidad and Tobago, we have already initiated steps to address these deficiencies which will likely constrain our country in its attempt to share in the new opportunities.
Ladies and gentlemen, I now wish to direct your attention to the fact that we have a growing consumer population more aware and sensitive to environmental issues and food biosafety. This has manifested itself in increasing demands for products that enhance their personal health and that of their dependents.
Precise data on demands for safer food are not readily available. However, from statistics available, there is a trend to safer food. In the United States of America, the market for organically-produced food is approximately US$3 billion and is projected to double in the next two to three years. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that the organic market grew 55 percent between 1999 and 2000. In the United Kingdom, there are 2 865 farmers licensed for conversion, to fully organic farming, on 425 000 ha or 2 percent of all agricultural land.
Can the region capitalize on this increasing market for organically-grown produce? Given the negative impact that globalization and trade liberalization have had on our traditional staple exports, we must grasp this opportunity and quickly at that, to fast-track our development of our organically-based operations.
Latin America is favourably positioned for organic horticulture:
- it is described as one of the richest biodiversity reservoirs of the world
- it is blessed with fertile land and
- it possesses varied climates and farming traditions.
I have been advised that Latin America has the potential for supplying a wide array of fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, cereals, coffee, cocoa, sugar and meats. It is heartening to learn that resident in this region is the capacity all ready to handle organic horticulture production and marketing. Marketing is quite varied ranging from cooperative efforts and brand names in supermarkets to specialized stores, neighbourhood fairs, informal markets and direct home delivery. However, the export market is the main outlet for organic produce. This export capability is supported by certification agencies which have been established in countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Costa Rica. In Trinidad and Tobago, three persons are certified inspectors of organic produce.
In both Latin America and the Caribbean, there is yet very little direct funding by the state for organic production. Support and assistance generally come from International funding agencies, NGO's and even international purchasers of selected produce. Most of the sponsored activities relate to education and research.
I recognize the efforts that CARDI has been making in promoting organic horticulture since 1996 through technical support and project management in The Bahamas on a 40-hectare organic fruit and vegetable farm and through collaborative projects and technical support in Trinidad, St Lucia, Jamaica and Barbados.
In Trinidad there are about 110 persons who have shown some interest in organic farming by establishing small vegetables plots and/or by participating in activities of the two major organizations involved in organic horticulture - the Trinidad and Tobago Organic Agriculture Movement and the Biodynamic Association of Trinidad and Tobago.
Trinidad and Tobago is potentially well-placed to capitalize on the growing international market for organically produced and health foods. Traditionally, our cocoa and coffee, the former well-reputed for its fine flavour, are produced in a sustainable system with minimal use of inorganic inputs. With some modifications, our coconuts and several other fruit crops similarly have the potential for development in this manner.
My Ministry is pursuing efforts at formulating a national policy on organic horticulture for which we are seeking the input of stakeholders. After achieving consensus on policy, we will be proceeding to draft legislation.
Our recent success, not withstanding the high costs, at managing the Hibiscus mealybug and Citrus blackfly are indicative of our commitment to allocating resources to projects and activities designed to minimize the negative effects of conventional practises on the environment so that our citizens could lead healthier lifestyles.
My Ministry is fully supportive of efforts in national programmes and projects designed to promote organic horticulture. We will work to ensure that the mechanisms designed to support institutional framework and production systems for organic horticulture will be reinforced by the Ministry's Incentive Programme and other relevant and appropriate instruments. This Incentive Programme is currently under review and we trust that we will obtain the financial support to make it effective.
Ladies and gentlemen, in closing, I am optimistic that the objectives of this Conference would be achieved. My hope is that participants will become more knowledgeable about production approaches, markets and prospects for organic products and will be better equipped to assist their respective countries to achieve objectives in their organic horticulture efforts. Finally, I do hope that you will also have some time to enjoy the ambience of our country, blessed not only with a rich biological diversity, but also greatly privileged to possess a diverse mix of cultures and customs.
I wish you a successful meeting and may God bless you all.