Suriname wants to become Caribbean’s food basket

Last Updated on Tuesday, 7 October 2014, 19:39 by GxMedia

Suriname’s Agriculture Minister, Soresh Algoe

Top officials of Suriname’s Ministry of Agriculture on Tuesday declared that they were working to make that former Dutch colony the bread-basket of the Caribbean, but quickly back-pedaled and said that they were collaborating with Guyana to satisfy the region’s food needs.

Permanent Secretary of Suriname’s Ministry of Agriculture, Gerrit Breinburg declared that his country has already crafted a plan for the period 2015 to 2020. “Suriname is aiming to become the bread-basket of the Caribbean so we are putting policy in place to make sure that we can fulfill this in a five-year period,” he said.

The plan, he explained, includes the construction of laboratories to ensure plant, animal and food safety.  Surinamese officials could not immediately say what specifically their country’s food import bill was but boasted that already Suriname was re-exporting potatoes and onions to Guyana.  They said that certain items had to be separated ahead of a presentation on Wednesday because they were not agricultural products.

Suriname’s Agriculture Minister, Soresh Algoe was hard-pressed to explain whether there were now two bread-baskets- Guyana and Suriname- and what this means for regional unity. He then sought to explain that the governments of the two neighbouring South American countries have agreed that they would work together to become one bread-basket for the 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom). “Guyana alone—that’s my personal opinion—cannot, Suriname alone cannot be the bread basket of Caricom. That means when you are talking Suriname will be the bread basket, it’s not alone,” he said.

Algoe referred to a meeting two years ago between himself and his Guyanese counterpart in Nickerie at which it was agreed that they would work together to achieve that common objective.  Those talks, he recalled, had focused on some crops, cattle and small ruminants.  He said that Guyana was not involved in drafting Suriname’s five-year plan and that each country would nationally refer to their ambition to satisfy the region’s food needs. “For sure, we have to do some things together. If Guyana and Suriname work together, for sure we will cover a bigger region than Caricom. You will take also the French Antilles and the Netherlands Antilles to cover them with food,” he said.

But Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy said his country was continuing its aim of becoming the food-basket of the region.  “Guyana’s national strategy for agriculture is designed to transform Guyana’s potential to being the food basket of the Caribbean,” he told Caribbean News Desk.

He added that the strategy included ensuring that as part of the food import bill of the Caribbean, Guyanese farmers and businesses are able to earn.