(MENAFN - Caribbean News Now) Luther St Ville, Senior Operations Officer (Agriculture), CDB
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) presented a study on the status of agriculture in the Caribbean as part of the 49th annual meeting of the bank's board of governors in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The study highlighted the critical role that agriculture plays to end poverty and build economic resilience.
'Growth in agriculture is the most efficient way to lift poor people in rural areas out of poverty,' said Luther St Ville, CDB senior operations officer (operations).
In the joint publication with the food and agriculture organisation of the United Nations, entitled 'Study on the State of Agriculture in the Caribbean,' CDB showed that the region has undergone dramatic changes in past decades.
Since 2000, the food import bill of CDB's Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) has more than doubled from US $2.1 billion to US $4.8 billion. Food imports account for 60 percent of the food consumed in the region. On the other hand, food exports of traditional crops dropped from 60 percent in 1990 to less than 20 percent in 2018. At the same time, agri-processed food exports increased from about 10-15 percent to 50 percent.
The picture is mixed across the region. While the four BMCs Dominica, Guyana, Haiti and Suriname are heavily dependent on agriculture, which accounts for 12-17 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and represents 10-50 percent of employment, the contribution of agriculture is marginal in ten BMCs, where the sector accounts for less than four percent of GDP.
The study concludes that the agriculture sector needs to overcome a number of challenges if the agri-food system is to become more competitive, inclusive and sustainable. Productivity growth in the Caribbean is low. The value per worker has remained stable at less than US $25,000 for the last 30 years.
In contrast, the value doubled in Europe and tripled in the United States over the same period. Natural hazards also play a significant role: while 40 percent of the sector is frequently hit by mild droughts and ten percent by severe droughts, less than 5 percent of the farmers have irrigation.
To transform the agriculture sector, CDB proposes to identify the key constraints along the value chains and to strengthen the system in an integrated manner. CDB will also promote science and innovation to develop modern agricultural good practices while incorporating technology in the production processes. Also, CDB will support the strengthening of capacity in climate-smart agriculture to make the sector more resilient.