The presidents of both countries, for their part, recognized the contribution of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to incorporating digital technologies and fostering the resilience and sustainability of production processes in the Americas.
San Jose, 4 October 2023 (IICA) – The presidents of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, and of the Republic of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, received an award of recognition from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for their commitment to and leadership in strengthening agriculture and food security in their countries and the region as a whole, through visionary and innovative policies to increase productivity, inclusion, farmers’ empowerment and sustainability.
The officials participated alongside IICA Director General Manuel Otero in the opening ceremony of the Conference of Ministers of Agriculture of the Americas 2023, organized by the Institute in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Upon receiving IICA’s award of recognition from Otero, the Guyanese president thanked IICA for its technical support to agriculture in his country and highlighted the efforts of farmers and CARICOM member countries to reduce food imports 25% by 2025 and to achieve a sustainable and resilient production system capable of withstanding the region’s climate vulnerability.
“In the agriculture sector, costs increased by 10% in just one year, between 2021 and 2022. If we wish to overcome these difficulties, we must invest in technology and innovation now”, noted Irfaan Ali.
“From 2018 to 2022, we saw a significant increase in imports of food and agricultural inputs, such as wheat, corn, vegetables and meats, which drove up inflation and food insecurity in the region. We have never been afforded an opportunity like the one we have today. I wish to commend IICA for its efforts to address these issues in the food and agriculture sector through the use of technology”, indicated the president.
With respect to Guyana’s current projects, the president noted: “We are working with Brazil on transportation and other aspects to guarantee food supply. To ensure that this happens quickly, we will work with IICA to set up a regional food center that meets the standards of all markets”.
In his speech, Irfaan Ali also announced that, “as part of a second initiative, our goal is for 35% of all new food production projects to be overseen by women and youth. We will also seek to produce food without disturbing the environment or reducing its nutritional value. Lastly, we will seek to establish an agro-innovation center that will bring the best technologies, knowledge, leaders and digitalization to the sector”.
On the other hand, the President of Panama, Laurentino Cortizo, recognized and expressed gratitude for IICA’s technical support to establish Panama’s State Agrifood Policy Act, aimed at guaranteeing the human right to food and protecting the production sector, which entered into force earlier this year.
“I would like to thank the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, and his team, as well as all Panamanian producers, because this State policy was built from the ground up. This didn’t come from the Ministry of Agricultural Development or the Ministry of Planning. It came from producers themselves – that is how it got to the National Assembly, where it was unanimously approved”, he explained.
The first of its kind in the hemisphere, the act seeks to generate the necessary conditions to provide Panamanians with constant access to healthy and nutritious food at affordable prices. At the same time, it fosters the competitiveness of agriculture, with a focus on the economic, social and environmental sustainability of food production and the well-being of rural dwellers.
“If your country does not have a state policy for the agriculture sector, please know that you have a great ally in IICA. The guidance we received from IICA was of the highest quality. So, I must thank you, Director Otero”, concluded the Panamanian official.
The President emphasized the importance of working to reduce poverty and inequality from childhood. “Food production is involved in nutrition, and that is where joint work among all of us – presidents and ministers of Agriculture, who are passionate about the countryside – comes in. Food production must be a high-priority issue on our countries’ agendas”, he stated.
Cortizo also called for discussing ways to increase the resilience and sustainable production of regional agriculture at the ministerial conference. “Panama and Guyana are carbon-neutral and carbon-negative countries. Developed countries, which are the major carbon and greenhouse gas emitters, are the ones who must determine what measures to take with these industries”, he said.
Institutional Communication Division.