The meeting was convened against a backdrop of escalating global food and nutrition risks, due to the cumulative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and food and energy price shocks. These shocks emphasised the OECS’ vulnerability to increased food insecurity as highlighted by Minister Grant,
“The OECS is highly food dependent with our Member States importing some 55% to 95% of their food supply, with four of the Member States being more than 80%. There is at present insufficient space on the local supply (because of both volume and variability) side to buffer resulting in relatively common shortages in the imported food supply.”
As a result, Hon. Grant urged fellow Ministers of Agriculture, Development Partners and technical officers to change the modus operandi and take a proactive approach toward food security within the OECS. His call to action was for the region to prioritise food production and food import substitution to survive and build resilience,
“We must support farming households with inputs and tools to cultivate short‑cycle crop varieties and backyard gardening kits for rapid food production, and to reduce the pressure on our household incomes. We must determine what our national and regional strategic food supply must be adequately supported at the national and local levels, through procurement, storage, and supply chain services.”
The Council of Ministers: Agriculture expressed support for the OECS Food and Agriculture Systems Transformation (FAST) strategy as a response to the call for increased food security, food self-reliance and agricultural development across the OECS. The FAST envisages establishing competitive and sustainable food and agriculture production, processing and distribution practices that will result in increased consumption of affordable, quality, and nutritious food, increased food self-reliance and increased social and economic development.
The Ministers of Agriculture endorsed the recommendations to establish the governance and institutional framework to operationalise the FAST and for the OECS Commission to engage with the Member States on the alignment (and costing) of the FAST activities with their national agriculture agenda to maximise the allocation of financial and human resources.
The Council of Ministers: Agriculture supported the establishment of a Technical Working Group in both Agriculture and Fisheries to improve coordination across the Member States in addition to endorsing the ongoing knowledge work and partnerships in support of food system transformation. This included support to the pan-Caribbean project CambioNet, led by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRAE) to strengthen Agriculture Research and Development, Extensions, and Agricultural Advisory in sustainable agriculture practices.