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The Caribbean Week of Agriculture: new opportunities for investing in agriculture

The 14th edition of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA), widely recognised as the most important event in the region’s agricultural calendar, opens on Monday in the Cayman Islands.

Taking the theme Investing in Food and Agriculture in the Caribbean, the event is being organised from October 24 to 28 and is expected to attract several hundred farmers, agribusiness entrepreneurs, policy-makers, development partners and representatives from producer organisations, financial institutions, the private sector and the tourist and hospitality trade.

This year new opportunities for investing in agriculture are very high on the agenda, as well as strategies with the potential to address the key challenges faced by the region, including taking a more business-like approach to agriculture, with a focus on value chain and agribusiness development, and the scope offered by the region’s flourishing tourist and hospitality sector for generating rural income and employment.

Although many Caribbean countries have made progress in meeting global hunger targets, the region faces a number of serious challenges. Among these are declining investment in agriculture in the region and unsustainably high levels of food imports, much of it in the form of unhealthy processed foodstuffs. Aside from the economic damage caused to the region’s agriculture by the shift away from domestic root crops, tubers, fruit and vegetables, this trend is having serious repercussions on public health. Diets that are high in salt, sugar and oils have led to high rates of obesity and diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease and some forms of cancer.

Other constraints include the region’s particular vulnerability to natural disasters caused by climate change, which cause extensive damage to infrastructure, property and agricultural production. Meanwhile, food and nutrition insecurity is being aggravated by increasing rates of poverty in the region, coupled with high levels of income inequality.

“This edition of CWA is of special significance with a strong focus on boosting investment in the agri-food sector,” said CTA Director Michael Hailu. “CTA will bring success stories in agribusiness development, not only from the Caribbean region, but also from the Pacific, as we strive to facilitate links between these two regions.”

Throughout the week, CTA will be organising social media reporting of CWA events, as well as training sessions for people wanting to learn how to use these channels to increase visibility of agribusiness activities.

“Youth will bring their enthusiasm and talent to CWA 2016, as 16 onsite dynamic bloggers will provide coverage throughout the week, along with an important team of international and regional journalists” said Juan Cheaz of CTA. “At the CWA, we will be sharing and discussing strategies to help small-scale agricultural producers access markets and finance. Through these efforts, we hope to contribute to making agriculture and agribusiness development a high priority, and promote Caribbean agriculture as a good investment to achieve dynamic and inclusive economic growth.”

The CWA 2016, to be held in Grand Cayman, is jointly organised by the Cayman Islands Government, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).