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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 3, CMC – Officials from Canada and the Caribbean on Monday began a five-day review of the Canada-Caribbean Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Programme (CCSAWP) with the region indicated it remained committed to the project. Labour and Social Security Minister Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, addressing the opening of the meeting, said Caribbean countries recognise that their nationals have benefitted tremendously from employment opportunities under this initiative. “It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the immeasurable contribution of the programme to the individual empowerment of thousands of Barbadian and Caribbean nationals, and to the building and growth of our nations in this region.” She said the CCSAWP, commonly referred to as the Farm Labour Programme, has “helped to sustain our families and communities, and ultimately our foreign exchange reserves over the years”. The Labour Minister said that although the number of workers on the Barbadian leg of the programme had decreased within the last two decades, the island still benefits from remittances related to the initiative. She described the CCSWAP as an investment and that the annual review meeting is being taken very seriously by regional countries. “(This is) an investment in our people and we commit to doing what is necessary to ensure that our Canadian partners are comfortable with the experience and with the product. That is why we are here from across the region, because we take this review seriously, as our colleague Ministers of International Business take the Global Forum Peer Review,” she told the meeting. “The testimonies are many, of workers past and present who have been able to purchase land, construct homes and educate their children through the gains of this programme.” She said that the CCSAWP was introduced to the region when it was emerging from “a socially depressed state and contemplating independence,” and that it provides a much needed alternative of empowerment and development of the region’s people. “We are in debt to the Canadian Government for its continued commitment to this programme, and its commitment to our people and to our development,” she emphasised. The five-day 2012 CCSAWP meeting is being attended by at least 50 officials including Canadian government representatives; members of the Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (FARMS) and farmers and employers participating on the CCSAWP. Caribbean delegates will comprise ministers and senior Labour Ministry officials. The organisers said that the forum will also provide an opportunity for clarification on areas of concern. Barbados last hosted the CCSAWP meeting in 2006.