Mexico strengthens agricultural ties with Caribbean
MÉRIDA – The Ministers of Agriculture of Mexico and the Caribbean recently met to discuss the need to improve regional collaboration for the benefit of rural development in their countries, and highlighted the technical cooperation provided by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to enhance agrifood development in the region.
During the First Meeting of Ministers and Secretaries of Agriculture of Mexico and the Caribbean, José Calzada Rovirosa, head of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), highlighted Mexico’s partnership with Caribbean countries in matters related to the agrifood sector, and expressed his commitment to increase collaboration with that region.
Rovirosa also stated that dialogue is critical to bringing about common solutions to common problems and addressing future challenges, given that global food production will need to increase by seventy percent by the year 2050.
The ministers agreed to carry out actions geared toward eradicating hunger, guaranteeing food security, and mitigating the effects of climate change on the region’s agrifood sector.
The Director General of IICA Víctor M. Villalobos gave an overview of some of IICA’s contributions in the Caribbean, and explained that the Institute’s work focuses on four strategic objectives: improving productivity and competitiveness, developing rural areas, increasing resilience, and improving food security.
During the panel discussion entitled Dialogue on the Creation of South-South Strategies with the Caribbean Region, Villalobos stated that over the past two years, IICA has implemented 18 IICA-funded projects and 71 externally funded projects.
The most significant work that IICA carries out in the region is the application of diagnoses, the analysis of value chains and preparation plans for companies and exports, the facilitation of access to credit and insurance, and the organization of training activities in good agricultural practices for different product chains such as coconut, plantain, chili pepper, onion, pork, small ruminants, roots and tubers and compotes and gelatins, in order to increase the competitiveness of these important products.
Villalobos highlighted the fact that the IICA-SAGARPA program strengthens the agricultural capabilities of the member countries by improving the specialized knowledge of agricultural professionals on emerging issues and important topics. The program has had a total of 2 560 participants from 33 countries; over 1 000 of those participants are from Caribbean countries.
The Director General also referred to the scholarship program led by IICA together with the National Council on Science and Technology (CONACYT), which has provided specialised training to young professionals in all of the regions of the continent.
Villalobos expressed his interest in broadening the scope of this program by offering more training opportunities and, in this way, increasing the participation of the region’s youth.
In his opinion, youth and women are key stakeholders in the Caribbean. IICA has brought about positive change in the region by supporting strategic and business plans as well as market research; reducing post-processing losses; and improving association and cooperation capabilities, food safety, value-adding, and packaging to increase production, marketing and income from various goods and handicrafts.
The Minister of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Saboto Caesar, spoke on behalf of the Caribbean countries and publicly recognized the work Mexico and IICA have carried out for the benefit of the region’s agrifood sector.
Caesar stressed the importance of improving and increasing the cooperation provided by the Mexican government to Caribbean countries, with the aim of overcoming inertia and facing the challenge of improving food production in Caribbean countries.
In attendance at the meeting were the Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Agriculture of Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname.
The governor of the state of Yucatan, Rolando Zapata Bello, as well as representatives from the Yucatan government also participated in the meeting, along with the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE), the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), and international development cooperation agencies from Japan, Germany and France. (PR)