Agriculture ministers of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) will converge in Antigua for a meeting aimed at jumpstarting the sector in the sub-region.
The 2nd OECS Council of Agricultural Ministers will take place next Thursday.
There, the OECS will discuss ways to both boost trade and harmonise agricultural policies, through their implementation of a comprehensive Agricultural Plan of Action (APOA).
Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Director of Agriculture Jedidiah Maxime revealed the key areas that will be discussed. Among them: reducing the food import bill; improving all school meal programmes in the sub-region, and revitalising the Dominica sector.
“There will be much collaboration with the intent that we reduce the cost of doing certain things, that we develop more sub-regional trade, and also that our work programmes be synchronised,”said Maxime, who is also the chairman of the event’s planning committee.
Key to a thriving OECS agricultural sector, according to Maxime, will be the revitalisation of Dominica’s sector.
“Dominica is one of the ‘food-basket countries’ of the OECS region, they produce significantly larger quantities of products than some of the other countries. As such, the OECS is a marketplace for Dominica in a lot of commodities, and we would have a vested interest to ensure that the sector is vibrant in Dominica,” Maxime said.
He also noted that a revitalising initiative could stand to directly benefit Antiguan farmers as well.
He remarked, “On the same hand, we recognize that we have an opportunity that exists where we can get commodities like onions and carrots into Dominica, which they don’t produce. As such, we would be keen – in our implementation of the APOA – that we seek to capitalise on any opportunity that exists in Dominica, or any one of the OECS territories (for that matter).”
With regards to one of the other key discussion points – improving sub-regional school meal programmes – Maxime said “The emphasis has to do directly with the whole issue of food security.”
“It is a holistic approach to ensure food security, and at the same time providing markets for farmers,” he added.
Thursday’s meeting will take place at St James’ Resort, and is the first meeting since April of this year, when agriculture ministers met in St Vincent & the Grenadines.