Dominica's Minister of Agriculure, Matthew Walter.
Dominica’s Minister of Agriculture, Matthew Walter.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana  Dominica’s Minister of Agriculture, Matthew Walter, has called for modernisation of agriculture in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

“We need to modernize agriculture. We need to do agriculture as a business and we need to understand that agriculture is a science,” he told a press briefing as Caribbean Week of Agriculture ended on Friday.

“And we need to send that message to our respective governments that agriculture must be put on the front burner,” he said after a meeting of the Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

Walter further stated that unless agriculture is put on the front burner of the plans and programmes in the respective countries, the region “will continue suffering and being plagued by many of the social ills relating to food insecurity and also nutrition insecurity”.

He spoke of the problem of aging farmers and called for efforts to attract young people to agriculture.

“If the youth are not brought on board, it means we will see the demise of the agricultural sector. Therefore, the concentration is on the training of the youth and putting in place the requisite programmes that will be able to generate interest and motivation in the youth to participate actively and successfully in agricultural production,” he said in reference to discussions of the COTED meeting.

He further said a lot of misinformation exists about agriculture.

“Hence, it is very important that the media comes on board with us, that the media is sensitive in relation to agriculture and the benefits that can be derived from agriculture.

“So, we want to work cooperatively with the media houses all over the Caribbean region to ensure that they willingly go outside there and disseminate the information in respect to agriculture in the region.”

Walter said there is a need to establish industrial pacts to reduce the export of raw agricultural produce and increase value.

“We have to find innovative ways,” he said, adding that he was impressed when he saw in Guyana the number of value-added products from cassava and other fresh produce.

“But, we need to create employment for our people. We [are] tired [of] creating employment for the developed countries. Therefore, it is important that we put industrial pacts in place in our respective countries to be able to generate employment and economic activities in our respective countries,” he said.

Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2013 was held under the theme “Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development.”