The CARICOM Private Sector Organization (CPSO) and this country’s Ministry of Agriculture, have entered a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that establishes a formal, structured mechanism for substantive and effective cooperation between the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) and the CPSO for mobilising and facilitating private sector investments in strategic sectors of SVG.
The MOU was executed on March 1, 2022, in the lead up to the start of the 33rd Inter-Sessional meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a release from the ministry of agriculture states.
It was signed by minister of agriculture, Saboto Caesar, and the newly established Associate Institution of the Community – the CPSO, represented by Chairman, Gervase Warner.
The principal focus of this cooperation is the realisation of increased private sector investment in strategic agri-food opportunities, commencing with a pilot in the development of the domestic poultry value chain, with the objective of creating employment, improving standards of living and increasing economic activity, particularly in the rural economy, providing new opportunities for youth and women, whilst providing an acceptable return to investors.
CPSO Technical Director, Dr. Patrick Antoine who presided over the virtual signing proceedings, highlighted that the collaborative approach and commitment demonstrated by the parties was quite timely. He noted that with expeditious implementation of the provisions of the MOU significant gains will be realised which are vital for the socio-economic recovery of the OECS, and CARICOM economies.
Warner, who signed on behalf of the CPSO underscored the significance of the occasion, highlighting that the CPSO as the ‘Apex’ private sector body had invested substantial time and resources in identifying the food import displacement opportunities.
Chairman Warner noted as well that an enabling ‘doing business’ environment to encourage private sector investments would impact positively on employment, food and nutrition security and balance of trade. He, also pointed to the need for focused attention to be given the body of evidence presented to facilitate tariff regime reviews, to influence Government’s policy position to encourage private sector investment in areas such as poultry. He commended the Government of SVG, and the minister of agriculture for the tangible demonstration of their commitment.
Minister Caesar highlighted that his ministry, and the Government of SVG are very concerned about the country’s rising food import bill and the impact on food and nutrition security, further strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Minister advised at the ceremony that among the critical elements for assured success were the political will and legislative framework to encourage sustainable investments in the agriculture sector. He thanked the CPSO for its leadership and commitment in supporting efforts through its membership and partnerships, to mobilise the factors of production, such as land, and technical support .
The initial thrust leading to the MOU forms part the CPSO’s “25% by 2025” initiative which emanated from a mandate given to the CPSO by the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM to secure greater private sector participation on agri-food import displacement opportunities by 25% by year 2025, as part of a broader framework to support the full implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The signing of the MOU was hailed as a significant step by the Region in reversing the trend and mounting expenditure on food imports amidst ‘flat-lined’ domestic production and limited intra-regional trade in commodities such as poultry meat and other meat products. The engagement with St. Vincent and the Grenadines, will be leveraged with other CARICOM Member States.