Dominica’s PM calls for removal of artificial barriers to trade
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addressing the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo. (Photo: CMC)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CMC) — Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, has called for the removal of “fictitious” imposition of barriers to intra-regional trade, especially within the agricultural sector, urging also that agricultural workers be allowed free movement within the 15-member regional integration movement.

Addressing the inaugural Agri-Investment Forum and Expo, hosted by the Government of Guyana and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretariat, Skerrit said that regional countries in the process of attracting jobs in the tourism industry give concessions to hotels to import food from outside the region.

“Can we not address this and say let us first buy from your country and if we can’t find from your country, we will buy from a brother or sister in Caricom. And so we have to move all of those fictitious impositions that we put,” Skerrit told the event which is being held under the theme “Investing in Vision 25 by 2025”.

The event was attended by several regional leaders and investors.

Skerrit said issues such as phytosanitary conditions are “just unnecessary actions that we take”. He was making the plea for farmers to be allowed freedom of movement within the region.

“We talk about access to farm labour. It is difficult for farm labour to move within the region. We send farm workers to Canada every year. We are helping their agriculture, we are helping their economy, but we cannot help one another by allowing farm workers to move freely within our region.

“We have the capacity to supply significant amount of food to the region and we need to work together, we need to allow our produce to come in freely, unfettered manner and allow the ordinary folks in the Caribbean to feel for the first time the true benefits of the integration movement,” Skerrit added.

At the start of the three-day event on Thursday, Belize Prime Minister and Caricom Chairman, John Briceño, said Caricom states must do better to remove impositions and barriers affecting trade regionally.

He said they must use their efforts and energies to “adopt policies to support the growth of our productive sector, improve market facilitation and develop international transportation”.

Addressing the issue of regional food security, Briceño stated that there must first be an appreciation for the fact that there are dedicated Caricom farmers and agro-processors who are knowledgeable and skilled enough to take advantage of the many opportunities that exist within the region, to attain food security and enhance economic activity.

Skerrit said the actions and decisions to help transform agriculture and give farmers the confidence and comfort to be in the industry “are within our hands”.

“I think as part of the process of advancing this very lofty and welcome initiative led by the president of Guyana of which I am in total and absolute support of, I think we need to itemise the actions we need to take and take them.

“If we are to allow Caricom or ordinary folks to feel that they are part of an integration process, especially our farmers and fisherfolks, it must be able to benefit from that process and the reality is in my country we can supply the region with a wide variety of crops at affordable prices and to safeguard the health of the region,” Skerrit said.

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