OECS Ministers of Agriculture and Tourism decide jointly on new priorities for agriculture development

OECS Ministers of Agriculture and Tourism

Castries, St Lucia, Wednesday June 23rd, 2010. OECS Ministers of Agriculture recently met at the Marriott Resort in St. Kitts-Nevis to consider revised priority actions for development of the agriculture sector in the OECS region, within the context of the movement towards deeper OECS Economic Integration.

The actions under consideration were based on a review of an already approved OECS Agriculture Policy Framework, which had to be revisited in the wake of new and emerging issues facing the sector, including accelerated erosion of trade preferences in major export markets in Europe, the lingering effects of the food price crisis of 2008 and the potentially adverse impacts of climate change. The Ministers also took account of the broader contribution of agriculture beyond food production, encompassing the allied areas of sustainable development and conservation of natural ecosystems; as well as the links between food security and poverty alleviation.

OECS Agriculture Ministers were joined by their Tourism Ministerial colleagues to decide on integrated approaches straddling the two key economic sectors, and agreed to focus their attention on a few strategic areas including: private sector led strategies to transform OECS agriculture by tapping opportunities in non-traditional export markets; the integration of poverty considerations in the development of commercial supply chains; a demand-driven approach to establishing stronger commercial linkages between agriculture and tourism; and the modernisation of the OECS shipping industry to serve the mutual trading interests of both sectors in expanding intra-regional passenger and freight traffic within the OECS and the wider Caribbean region.

The OECS Ministers of Agriculture and Tourism mandated the OECS Secretariat to further develop the programme priorities for the agriculture sector, paying special attention to a number of important cross-cutting requirements, including the need to: identify a set of agriculture products in which the OECS region has a competitive production and trading advantage; identify and target appropriate private sector operators, including financial institutions, for the establishment of partnerships; reduce the high costs of agriculture inputs, in particular fertilizers and feeds, through joint procurement; risk management, including introducing and strengthening of insurance arrangements for crops, livestock and fisheries; as well as the need to put measures in place to ensure preservation of environmental integrity.

As an immediate practical measure, the Ministers also mandated the OECS Secretariat to formulate regional projects for submission under the European Union Aid for Trade initiative to support the implementation of the new agriculture priorities, in particular the establishment of an OECS Quality Seal for agriculture-tourism products and the implementation of recommendations for the expansion of intra-regional transportation services and facilities. Ministers also supported the call from the OECS Secretariat for the provision of additional resources to build the capacity of the Secretariat to manage, monitor and evaluate an expanded programme of work, and to more intensively pursue the development of synergies with agriculture development and trade at the CARICOM level.

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