One would think the key limiting factor for trade in the Caribbean is a lack of transportation. However, this is not solely the case.
According to CEO of Port Authority Antigua and Barbuda, Mr. Darwin Telemaque, in his presentation on linkages between trade and transportation at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, the main issue is that not enough goods are being produced to be transported in the first place.
Farmers and other smallholders refrain from engaging in large scale production out of fear of taking on the risk of producing more than that which the market demands and in turn operate at a loss.
But they cannot be blamed.
No farmer or producer will be interested in producing goods unless they are confident that there is a market available for their production beforehand.
How can this be fixed?
One suggestion is the enforcement of policies and implementation of strategies to support small holders with financing to support better packaging and branding of agriculture goods that are fit for both the local and export market.
Another suggestion is for governments in the Caribbean to establish a policy framework to address regional logistics and to construct a regional hub which will ensure that packages will be marketed.
If producers are guaranteed that there is a market for the goods they will be producing, then they will be more motivated and their level of output will be drastically increased.
As stated by Mr. Telemaque in his presentation, “We have an excessive amount of transportation to move the limited things being produced.” Hence it is greatly advised that production should be increased.
The Way Forward to drive production
Decision makers for agriculture need to be serious about driving forward the development of Caribbean agriculture. Often times, farmers are used as scapegoats for inefficiencies in the sector as it’s easy to say farmers are not producing enough, however even on the small scale when farmers produce, their goods spoil due to lack of market.
There must be clear guidelines to farmers as to what the market requires and what is necessary to achieve market access.
We can no longer have a marketing structure where farmers are just producing to sell to the local vendors because often times that’s the most reliable marketing channel accessible to a farmer.
“We don’t have problems; we have the inability to find solutions” – Darwin Telemaque