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Former Guyana President Critical Of Region’s Agricultural Policy

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad CMC – Former Guyana president Bharrat Jagdeo Monday, blamed Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders for not doing enough to deal with the declining agricultural production in the region as well as the impact of climate change.

Addressing the launch of the Faculties of Food and Agriculture and Science and Technology at the St. Augustine campus of the University of the West Indies, Jagdeo, who once had a regional agricultural plan named after him, said only three CARICOM countries have agriculture contributing more than 10 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP).

The Caribbean has a food import bill of four billion US dollars and Jagdeo also noted there was a decline in the budgetary allocation for agriculture in regional countries and that employment opportunities in the sector had also declined.

Jagdeo told the launch, clearly something must be wrong if there can be much academic success and achievement at the university and not get  the policy makers to focus on the issue, adding that something must be done urgently to give agriculture the priority it needs.

“There isn’t a sense of urgency and that is what we need today, a sense of urgency among our policy makers.

“Maybe we should have term limits for the entire Caribbean. And then policy makers may know that you only have a small period to achieve what you (they) want to,” said Jagdeo, who was barred by the Guyana constitution from seeking a third consecutive term in office.

The former Guyana president said the region was also not meeting the international requirements to deal with the issue of climate change and that regional leaders have not done what is required to address the issue.

“We have been struggling in CARICOM to get this issue on the agenda for ages and for our leaders to pay attention to the existential threat that it poses for our region and the threat that it poses for our way of life and social welfare and economic development.

“Yet we can only respond  and we seem to develop a sense of urgency only when we are struck with a hurricane and for two months after that every leader talks about climate change and then we forget it,” he said, adding that the “same thing has happened in the area of agriculture”.

Jagdeo noted that in 2008 when there were significant price increases in commodities globally, every regional leader accepted that it was a political issue and there was some urgency in dealing with the matter.

But he said when the prices abated “we lost interest again”.

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