Ministers of Agriculture make contributions at regional symposium on agricultural insurance in Antigua

Jolly Beach, Antigua. June 17. Contributions to the Regional Symposium Caribbean Regional Symposium on Agricultural Insurance – Disaster Risk Management, currently underway in Antigua, came today from the highest level of officials within the agricultural sector in the Caribbean during the morning session of the second day of deliberations.

In a message sent to the Symposium by the Hon. Robert Persaud, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, who was unable to attend, Minister Persaud outlined the devastating effects of natural disasters to the economy of Guyana.

“… exogenous shocks, particularly extreme weather events and rising sea levels are now posing the biggest challenge to the sector, and have already caused millions of dollars of economic losses. Between the period 1988 to 2006, seven natural disasters have hit the sector, of which two correspond to drought and four to flooding. The total economic damage caused due to these natural hazards was estimated to be on average over US$34,900,000 per year.”

Minister Persaud advised that the Government of Guyana is currently partnering with the NGOs in developing a 3-pronged approach to risk management in agriculture that includes mitigating risks, minimizing damages and exploring risk transfer options.

In his message, Minister Persaud noted that “despite the large amounts of financing that have already been spent and committed to the sector, significantly more investment will need to be pumped into all areas and a number of additional initiatives will need to be taken, which such as in the case of agricultural insurance, are not always as straightforward as they may seem at first glance.”

Minister Persaud expressed his sentiments that the symposium would provide a critical opportunity for regional stakeholders to address the issue constructively and discuss and share ways in which the region can measure and tackle the issues at hand.

The Hon. Matthew Walter, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of Dominica, concurred that an agricultural insurance scheme for the region is indispensable, imperative and immediate.  Minister Walter spoke passionately of the vulnerability of the farmers in Dominica to disaster impacting the sector. He stressed relief in these areas is critical.

While admitting that Government has a stake in the protection of the farmers, scarcity of resources is a challenge.  He cited his reason for participating in the symposium as becoming better equipped and informed by advice from experts as to how best Dominica would be able to approach the issue of a working agricultural insurance scheme for Dominica.

As noted by the session Chair, Mrs. Florita Kentish, FAO Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean, the committed participation of the Ministers of Agriculture in this symposium is a testimony to the growing importance of the issue of agricultural risk management in the Caribbean and moreover the importance of developing policies that will drive the implementation of programmes and schemes in agricultural insurance.  Also present at the symposium are the Hon. Michael Dennis Lett, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Grenada and the Hon. Hilton Baptiste, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and the Environment of Antigua and Barbuda, host and Chair of the Technical Management Advisory Committee (TMAC) on the Jagdeo Initiative constraint on Deficient and Uncoordinated Risk Management Measures.

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