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Abstract

The continued and growing dependence on basic food imports causes the food security status of the CARICOM countries to be extremely vulnerable to external shocks. Food import data show, for instance, that for the 01 to 09 Standard International Trade Classification (SITC) groups, inclusive of food and live animals, on average 85.5 percent of the regions’ demand is satisfied from extra-regional sources. Examination of 2014 import data by value, revealed that fish and seafood products are the lowest extra-regional imports at around 65 percent, while meat and meat preparations are the highest at about 98 percent. The latter statistics are troubling when juxtaposed with the facts that several of these countries have the potential to increase meat production, and that consumption within this group is steadily growing. Moreover, all of the countries are known to suffer from shortages of foreign exchange, which is much needed to help spur economic development in critical sectors of these countries. It is accepted that any improvements in the Region’s food and nutrition security (FNS) status, must be based on the use of local foods, contingent on increased domestic food production and increased intra-regional agricultural trade. But while there are varying levels of capacity or individual countries to increase their domestic food production, the potential for a higher level of food production, collectively, remains woefully unfulfilled. The paper suggests reasons as to why this continues to be the case and examines options for increased levels of domestic food production that can potentially positively impact the CARICOM region’s food security and nutrition status. Among the critical areas where innovations may achieve the desired results are: technological improvements in domestic production and marketing; adoption of international agricultural health and food safety standards; intra-regional transportation of primary agricultural products; and the implementation of more targeted agricultural and fiscal policies.

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