The Agricultural and Food Expo is on at Gulf City Mall from today – and the public is invited!
Come and visit the 40-plus booths that will be showcasing their products, services and technology innovations.
The event is being hosted by Southex Trade Shows and Promotions in partnership with the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce, the Guyana-based Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Supermarket Association and the Agricultural Society.
The expo runs from today to August 7 and is open from 10 am-7 pm daily.
This expo is an important signal, as it affirms the message that we are ready to resume a level of "normality" post-covid, and gives food and agriculture visibility in the national sphere.
As in many countries worldwide, food security is suddenly dominating national discussions locally. With the invasion of Ukraine and resultant global supply- chain disruptions, there are already difficulties and rising costs of inputs to production.
At the consumer end, the spectre of shortages, something that TT has not witnessed in decades, could rear its head again. Food inflation has already made itself felt, as confirmed by the latest release from the Central Statistical Office, which reported a 1.2 per cent increase in the price of food and non-alcoholic beverages since January.
TT therefore finds itself in a precarious position, and can be justifiably termed food-insecure. Food insecurity is “the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.”
A study undertaken by Caricom identified that some 40 per cent, or 2.8 million people, in the English-speaking Caribbean are food-insecure. The effects of food insecurity are far-reaching – it can lead to birth defects and anaemia in children, obesity, and is a risk factor for stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and a number of cancers. It can affect how a person performs at school or work, cognitive issues, aggression and anxiety.
TT has a very rich variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables which are easily accessible to consumers at mostly affordable rates.
Unfortunately, our agricultural sector and related industries have not enjoyed the respect they deserve and have virtually collapsed over the decades. Can this sector now be revived?
In the last few months, TT has been given a temporary respite by the uptick in energy prices, but we can’t abandon the quest for earnings from the non-energy sector, and the agro-sector is quite promising.
The European Commission recently adopted a proposal to mobilise €600 million from the reserves of the European Development Fund to address the current food security crisis. The funds will be used to support African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, in three categories of aid: humanitarian assistance €150 million, sustainable production and resilience of food systems €350 million and macro-economic support €100 million. This provides funding opportunities to support the region’s strategies to expand the focus on agriculture.
Regional co-operation at both the state and private-sector levels is critical to make this push. The vice president of Guyana recently called on regional governments to take play a proactive role in achieving Caricom’s goal of increasing regional agricultural output by US$1.5 billion over the next three years.
According to Caricom Today, he “recommended that Caricom heads of governments ensure that the agriculture sector gets the requisite concessions and budgetary allocations for public sector investment projects...” Private-sector funding would also be critical and he estimated that achieving this goal would require the regional private sector to invest an additional US$7.5 billion.
The goal of Caribbean integration may yet be achieved, perhaps born out of the necessity to feed ourselves.