Grenadian minister says, make no compromise on food security

Monday, June 20, 2011 4:50 PM

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Castries, St. Lucia, June 20, 2011 – Grenada’s Agriculture and Fisheries Minister has said that food and nutrition security in the Caribbean requires regional countries fully utilizing their fish and other marine resources.

Hon. Denis Lett told an OECS Fisheries meeting in Castries, St. Lucia, that countries which “attempt to impede the rights of other nations’’ to use their ocean resources for their food and nutrition needs ought to be rebuked.

“Their actions must be condemned,’’ said Mr. Lett at the two-day OECS Fisheries Ministers meeting which opened Monday.

The Grenadian Minister, who is the outgoing chairman of the group, is accompanied by Chief Fisheries Officer, Justin Rennie.

“The issue of food and nutrition security for all people cannot be overstated,’’ Mr. Lett said. “Consequently, we are deeply disturbed when countries and organisations, who no longer have a strategic interest in the ocean as an essential source of food, would attempt to impede the rights of other nations who use the resources of the ocean on a sustainable basis for their food and nutrition security.’’

Minister Lett described food security as both “a human right and a sovereign right,’’ saying neither must be compromised.

“For us as a region,’’ he said, “it is even more fundamental, recognising our limited land space and small economies which are vulnerable to natural disasters and instability in international financial and economic conditions.’’

Mr. Lett urged Caribbean nations to take “full advantage of the relatively enormous marine space, which holds significant opportunities in contributing to the economic and social development of our peoples.’’

The St. Lucia meeting is being attended by ministers from member-states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, ambassadors, senior fisheries officers, and commissioners of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

OECS states have been trying to develop coordinated negotiating strategies and positions to enhance their representation at fisheries-related international fora, such as at the IWC.

The Commission is scheduled to meet next month and Minister Lett hopes there will be less division among IWC members.

“I trust that this year’s meeting can, at a minimum, recognise the rights of all peoples to self-determination,’’ he said. “Moreover, our goal is to ensure that we can achieve an equitable resolution on the many issues confronting the organisation, which would serve the interest of all.’’

Biologist Peter A. Murray, a Programme Officer at the OECS Secretariat in Castries, said it’s important that the Caribbean is represented on international bodies, where policy decisions are made on the use and exploitation on the world’s marine resources.

“We need to join to have a say. Let us come to grips with reality,’’ Mr. Murray said.

He claimed that the value of fisheries to regional economies is “underrated,’’ and suggested the adoption in the Caribbean of a “common industrial policy that will include the fisheries sector.’’

All speakers on the first day of meeting touched on issues such as the potential for expanding the fishing sector in the region and related many of its challenges, such as lack of venture capital and insurance coverage; the need for improved marketing; building capacity among fisher folks; and investing in fish processing and product development.

“The region is a significant consumer of fish products,’’ Mr. Rennie said. “We import a significant amount of fish and fish products. The OECS is a net importer of fish and fish products.’’

Among solutions proposed was the formation of cooperatives to help augment the catch in fish and to better market and manage the industry.

Cooperatives are going to be “our savior,’’ said Hilson Baptiste, Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing and Environment of Antigua & Barbuda.




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