From the podium

From the podium

His Excellency Anthony Wood (Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development of Barbados)

It is indeed a privilege and honour for me to make a statement on behalf of the Government and people of Barbados at this World Food Summit: five years later. In so doing, Mr. Chairman, I wish to first convey warm wishes from the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur who had looked forward to participating but is unfortunately unable to attend this historic Summit.

I wish to stress at the outset that Barbados has long been, and remains, fully committed to the implementation of policies and programmes, which provide for the eradication of hunger and ensure that every individual has access to safe and nutritious food. It is within this context that Barbados joined other Member Nations at the World Food Summit in Rome in November 1996 to make commitments to continue efforts to eradicate hunger in all countries with the immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people globally by 50 percent by the year 2010, if possible, but by not later than 2015.

It was recognized in 1996 that follow-up actions would be required at the national, inter-governmental and interagency levels if this objective were to be achieved. The implementation of the Plan of Action became the sovereign right and responsibility of each State, through national laws and the formulation of strategies, policies, programmes and the development of priorities, in conformity with the human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to achieve the objective of food security for all.

It is against this background, Mr. Chairman, that we have taken note, with much concern, of the data available which indicate that the target set for reducing the number of undernourished people globally will not be met if we proceed at the current rate. This World Food Summit: five years later is, therefore, timely as it provides us all with an opportunity to take stock and recommit ourselves through concerted action, to work toward accelerating the rate of reduction in the number of undernourished globally.

Currently, there are no food shortages in Barbados as food requirements are adequately met through a combination of local production and imports, and food is accessible to the majority of people. However, Government remains very concerned over the extremely high dependence on imports to meet domestic food requirements, which has placed Barbados in the category of Net Food Importing Developing Countries (NFIDCs) with approximately 74 percent of food requirements being sourced through imports.

The vulnerability of countries like Barbados that are so heavily dependent on imports was brought to the fore in the aftermath of September 11, when temporary shortages of selected food items were experienced, due to the unavailability of air traffic out of major ports of supply.

In addition, it should be noted that despite the fact that food is accessible to the majority of people, there are those whose circumstances make them vulnerable to food insecurity – among them the poor, the disabled, the elderly, the unemployed and children. As a result, much attention is being paid to social issues and programmes designed to assist these vulnerable sections of the population and ensure food security at the household level.

These programmes, which are also designed to reduce the level of poverty include direct assistance, both monetary and in-kind to those most vulnerable, the empowerment of individuals through the provision of economic and financial opportunities, the creation of vending facilities, provision of vocational training, urban renewal and rural development.

Government has also accorded high priority to the implementation of agricultural sector policies and programmes which seek to enhance domestic production capability with a view to reducing the heavy dependence on imports through increased production of safe, wholesome and nutritious food.

In this regard, Government has launched a "Land for Landless Programme" to make land – a critical resource in small island states like Barbados – available to those persons who are interested in farming but have little or no access to land. In addition, an Agricultural Development Fund has been established to provide much needed capital to the sector to facilitate the retooling of enterprises and investment in new technologies with the aim of enhancing international competitiveness. The Farm Incentive Scheme has been expanded to stimulate investment and increase activity in the agricultural sector.

Emphasis has also been placed on strengthening the food production, post-harvest processing and marketing systems to ensure food safety through initiatives which provide for improved infrastructure, appropriate legislation and enhanced human resource capability in this important area.

However, Mr. Chairman, as small developing countries like Barbados strive to enhance agricultural production capacity and improve agricultural health and food safety systems, significant technical and financial assistance will be required from the international support agencies, as well as from the donor community. In this regard, I wish to recognize the contribution of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other agencies, which have supported us in the agricultural development process.

More specifically, Mr. Chairman, I wish to commend the efforts of FAO in developing the Caribbean Regional Special Programme for Food Security. We are of the view that with the necessary support – financial and otherwise – this programme can contribute significantly to agricultural development through the implementation of projects relating to smallholder production, productivity and marketing, as well as projects in the area of trade facilitation. It is vital therefore, that funds be accessed from the international donor community to facilitate the implementation of this most important regional programme.

Mr. Chairman, our efforts to seriously address food security at all levels could, however, be undermined if we pursue trade liberalization in a manner, and at a pace, which is inconsistent with, and does not take into consideration, the special development needs of small developing economies like Barbados. It is against this background that in the on-going World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture negotiations, priority must be given to developing a package of provisions that addresses the peculiar circumstances of small developing economies, such as Barbados, given the highly vulnerable and sensitive nature of the agricultural sector in these countries.

In addition, it should also be noted that the reform process in agriculture being undertaken under the auspices of the WTO could possibly result in increased prices for agricultural commodities on world markets.

In this regard, it will be recalled that during the Uruguay Round of multilateral negotiations, many developing countries expressed their concerns on this matter and this led to the so-called Marrakech Ministerial Decision on the Impact of the Reform process on Least Developed and Net Food Importing Developing Countries. Mr. Chairman, the Marrakech Decision should be operationalized at the earliest opportunity if the concerns of these countries are to be addressed in real terms.

In closing Mr. Chairman, I wish to reaffirm the commitment of Barbados to the principles enshrined in the 1996 World Food Summit Declaration and Plan of Action and in the Declaration adopted at this World Food Summit: five years later. The Government of Barbados will continue to implement programmes to eradicate hunger and strive to ensure that all in the society have access to safe and nutritious food. In so doing, we shall require the assistance of the international community in the form of technical and financial assistance to strengthen our food production, marketing, agricultural, health and food safety systems. We shall also require the understanding and cooperation of the international community in securing the necessary flexibility in the on-going trade liberalization process that allows for the attainment of key development objectives and in particular for the achievement of food security.

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