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PM concerned about rising hunger in Caribbean

BY HORACE HINES
Observer staff reporter
hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 08, 2018

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ROSE HALL, St James — Prime Minister Andrew Holness has expressed grave concerns about the rise in hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last 20 years, which he noted is an encumbrance to protracted growth and development of the region's economies.

“A core component of improving the well-being and quality of life of citizens is food security; that is, and to use the FAO's (Food and Agriculture Organisation's) definition, when all people, at all times, have the physical, economic and social access to adequate, safe and nutritious food to meet their food preferences and dietary needs for a healthy and active life. Yet, for the first time in two decades, hunger is on the rise in Latin America and the Caribbean. We cannot achieve sustained growth and development with this troubling trend,” Holness said.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of the FAO's 35th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, yesterday.

Noting that energy security is food security, the prime minister suggested lowering high energy cost as one of the three actions that are critical to addressing hunger and malnutrition, rural development, and climate resilience and sustainable agriculture.

“We are addressing the crucial nexus between energy and food security and finding solutions to secure both, to put these two sectors in sync — a necessary component for sustainable development,” Prime Minister Holness argued.

He also batted for the agricultural sector to embrace technology and promote partnerships to maximise food production.

“While we cannot deny the close relationship between traditional culture and many of our agricultural practices, we must continue to appreciate the exponential value that can be created when we infuse our agricultural techniques and processes with technology,” he said.

He further noted: “Tourism is a significant industry for many of our economies, and we need to improve the linkages with this industry and others, including agriculture. Jamaica's Tourism Linkages Network epitomises this very idea of promoting partnerships, where hoteliers of varying sizes are accessing local food markets to meet their needs. The ripple effects of such a linkage are varied: Expansion in employment, especially in rural Jamaica; expansion in the agro-industry; investments in technology to not only increase yield, but to produce high-quality food; and the list goes on.”

In the meantime, according to Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Karl Samuda, this is the first time that all 33 member states are represented at the regional conference, which also saw a record 337 delegates in attendance.

The conference is only returning to the Caribbean for the first time in two decades. Jamaica last hosted the conference 50 years ago.

Prime Minister Holness expressed that he is encouraged by the strong turnout at the conference.

“I am heartened by the tremendous interest in this conference by the record number of participants here, and indeed, the fact that for the first time ever there are observers from the private sector,” he remarked.

“We are grateful to the FAO for its continued support as we transform and modernise our agricultural sector. We are confident that this conference will further serve to deepen our partnership and help to achieve the 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly goal number two: zero hunger,” he said.

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