Julio Berdegué, FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean. (Internet image)
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Julio Berdegué, the Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, has advised the Caribbean to pay attention to its macro-economic development and to implement policies that will ensure food security and survival through the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Speaking during the fifth FAO-COVID-19 and Food Systems series of webinars today, Berdegué said the FAO was worried about the region’s dependency on tourism, its level of external debt and how this would affect the capacity of the countries to import the food that they need.
He added the FAO has been developing briefs and round tables to support the countries on their policies, and said consideration had to be given to the level of unemployment generated because of the collapse of tourism. He also suggested the region should ensure the level of food production to enable farmers to harvest what they could harvest and plant what they could.
Chief economist and assistant FAO director general, Maximo Torero Cullen, projected a six per cent GDP loss for the Caribbean as a result of the pandemic and called for urgent attention to social protection programmes.
Panelist Joseph Cox, CARICOM’s Assistant Secretary-General For Trade and Economic Recovery, noted the Caribbean had already spent four per cent of GDP on containing the COVID-19 outbreak, and said the region had to be bold in addressing the aftershocks of the crisis. Cox also outlined the conditions and criteria for safe reopening of the economy.
Minister of Agriculture of St Vincent and the Grenadines and chair of CARICOM Agriculture Sector, Sabato Caesar, underlined the importance of private sector engagement and pointed to the CARICOM Agrifoods Task Force. He said there were already programmes in place for ramping up domestic production, but said the movement of food intra-regionally was one of the issues that must be addressed to be facilitating.
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