Hurricane Beryl: Pres. Ali “tremendously concerned” at setback of region’s 25 by 2025 Food Security Plan

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
The aftermath of Hurricane Beryl in St Vincent and the Grenadines (Photo: Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves Facebook)

— strategic meeting this week to determine action plan on way forward

As the lead Head of State for the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Agriculture and Food Security sector, President Dr Irfaan Ali has expressed concerns about the setback of the 25 by 2025 initiative caused by the impact of Hurricane Beryl across the region.

Earlier last week, as a category five hurricane, Beryl plough through the Caribbean with record-breaking wind speeds, causing massive destruction in several islands including loss of lives.

Among the CARICOM Member States affected by the hurricane are: Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Other countries in the wider region including Venezuela, Mexico and the Cayman Islands have also been affected.

President Dr Irfaan Ali

While an analysis of the overall impact by the natural disaster across the region is being done, President Ali this morning provided an update on the initial assessment of the Agriculture and Food Security sector.

“I am tremendously concerned at the setback Hurricane Beryl would have on a 25 by 25 food security plan. The initial assessment is heart-wrenching for farmers, to the governments, and to the people of these countries. It is heart-wrenching because of the tremendous investment, the tremendous policy commitment and budget support that was placed in the agricultural sector since 2020.”

Many of the affected countries have lost all of those investments that were made in areas such as infrastructure, water system, technology, crop variety, farm support and farm-to-market infrastructure as well as tens of billions of dollars lost from damages to crops and livelihoods in the agriculture and fishery sectors.

According to the Guyanese Leader, these affected Island-States were mostly on track to achieve the 25 by 2025 targets.

“Hurricane Beryl, in some instances, would have damaged or completely wiped out the agricultural sector. So, not only is the initial investment with costs of damage concerning to me as lead Head on Agriculture but it is also the long-term investment costs to rebuild the infrastructure to find resources to recapitalise the farmers… So, there are a lot of short-, medium- and long-term issues in the agriculture sector in the region that must be addressed and addressed in a comprehensive way.”

Moreover, President Ali, who is the immediate past CARICOM Chairman, also expressed concerns that this tremendous devastation across the region is being experienced at just the beginning of the hurricane season.

“There are some thoughts and some initial ideas that I’ve already shared with some colleagues and also the Chair of the Ministerial Task Force for Agriculture [Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha] to see how we can quickly mobilise the necessary stakeholders and resources to address this tremendous setback that our 25 by 25 Action Plan is being hit with by Beryl.”

“I’m also deeply concerned and we’ll be making the necessary calls in relation to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) and other institutions coming in from a very early stage to help our farmers and to work with the region because for sure, there are some changes in the methodology and changes in the approach to food production that we’ll have to take into consideration in this build-back phase.”

A strategic meeting is expected to be convened in the new week with regional and international stakeholders including IICA and Brazil to examine rebuilding efforts, technology available, quick-yielding and high-yielding varieties as well as varieties that can withstand such conditions in the future.

“The way in which we have to rebuild is to keep resilience and sustainability. And I think the use of hydroponics and shade houses immediately will be critical because this can accelerate how much vegetables and leafy vegetables, and crops like that we can put back on the market very quickly, which will give the farmers a shorter time lag in terms of getting back some resources and also will help in addressing immediate Food and Nutritional needs.”

From that meeting, it is expected that a proposal will be made to the CARICOM Chair and regional Heads of Government on a Plan of Action in moving forward.

The Guyana Government, as well as the local private sector and other NGOs, has been mobilising support to make much-needed and critical donations to the affected countries.

In Barbados, the agriculture sector – especially the fishing industry – has been severely damaged and would require tremendous investments. This is further compounded by the country’s main revenue earner, its tourism industry, being heavily affected as well.

Based on initial assessments, one-third of Bridgetown’s Fishing Harbour was destroyed with over 200 fishing vessels damaged or destroyed. Hundreds of acres of crops have also been lost and food production halted.

Over in Grenada, the devastation is horrific with at least two internal islands – Carriacou and Petite Martinique – completely destroyed including livestock, permanent crops and cash crops. Agriculture throughout Grenada has also been tremendously impacted by the hurricane.

In St. Vincent and the Grenadines, more than 80 per cent of the agriculture – bananas, plantains and livestock – has been either damaged or lost and food production activities have also ceased. On Union Island and Mayreau, almost 100 per cent of the agriculture and permanent crops were lost.

Though not as devastating, the impact of Hurricane Beryl in St Lucia has seen 35 per cent of the island’s banana and plantain crops being affected. Additionally, more than 100 acres of agricultural commodities such as roots and tubers vegetables were also affected along with permanent crops. Moreover, corn production is completely gone.

Jamaica has also suffered extensive damage in its agricultural areas with food production also on hold.