Barbados-Based Logistics Hubs To Support Caribbean Food Security

The distribution and supply of disaster relief and food products in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states are soon to be made easier by two independently-managed regional logistics hubs in Barbados. In a region where severe weather conditions, US import dependency, and regional trade barriers continue to pose threats to food security, these two hubs* will provide an opportunity to strengthen regional logistics and supply chains in addition to a heightened regional trade and efficient distribution of assistance during times of a disaster.

Caribbean fishing and agriculture are particularly vulnerable to climate-related impacts on weather conditions such as air and temperatures at the surface, as well as freshwater availability issues exacerbated due to the $5 billion bill for food imports which accounts for 80% of the food items consumed.

As per the United Nations, countries in the Caribbean suffer losses each year due to storm damage in terms of property and livestock, equal to 17% of their GDP.

COVID-19’s impact on the supply chain and the impact of conflict in Ukraine have led to an increase of 46 percent increase in the level of food security across the entire region from February through 2022 — the highest rate since the year 2020- which leaves 57 percent of the people trying to get food on the table.

There is hope for greater resilience in the face of increasing global uncertainty.

On re to Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, Barbados is an ideal geographical destination to be a trans-shipment point “from where you can connect to several countries within that Caribbean Island chain and in the coastal region of Latin America.”

The hubs offer an opportunity to build a regional logistical system that is effective as well as sustainable, constant, and secure, leading to less dependence on imports and enhanced resilience to climate change.

In Trinidad & Tobago in the month of August 2022, at the 2nd Regional Agri-Investment Forum, the Chairman of the CARICOM Private Sector Organization, Gervase Warner, described the issue of food security as “a vital issue that is essential to our survival. It is evident to us that we’re not going to receive assistance from the colonizers of the past. We’re not getting help from the big emerging nations. This is a problem that we have to tackle.”

The Barbados Barbados Guyana Food Terminal

In a speech at the first Agri-Food Investment Forum & Expo in Guyana in May 2022, Prime Minister Mottley stated that the Caribbean requires “an effective supply chain that’s safe and secure, not always dependent on imports.”

The Barbados-Guyana food terminal and a state-of-the-art abattoir, as set out in the Saint Barnabas Agreement with Barbados and Guyana, will store Guyanese products for local consumption and serve as a point of trans-shipment for exports. It could also provide a buffer for the eventuality of an event affecting food security and support the regional program for substitution of imports, “25 by 2025,” which aims to reduce food imports by 25 percent in 2025.

The facility’s opening might encourage investment in a previously declining segment of our economy.

In the last couple of years, the substantial economic impact of specific sectors, like tourism, has reduced agriculture’s importance, which has left the Caribbean extremely dependent on food imports. Transportation and imports have led to expensive food prices, and the Caribbean is ranked second in the high society for the price of a healthy lifestyle and third for a healthy and energy-efficient diet.

Therefore, 80 percent of the food we eat comes from people from other regions and the Caribbean is becoming extremely prone to food system disruptions and external shocks. This is because there are fewer foreign exchange reserves being used for processed, imported food items, which have been linked to the high prevalence of non-communicable diseases. In many instances, vast quantities of imported fruit and vegetables could be replaced with regionally or locally produced food. Still, the barriers between regions to trade and logistics and transportation issues have impeded the flow of food across the region.

According to Barbados the Minister of Agriculture, Indar Weir, ground will be broken in the early 2023 period for the construction of the 7-acre site, that will function as an agro-food logistics hub and the point of transshipment for products that originate from Guyana, which is a significant agricultural producer located in the Caribbean. This facility is also expected to hold around 45 containers, farmland to be used for crop production, a processing and packing plant with cold storage facilities, and an acquisition that can hold 20 million Gallons of water.

“It [Barbados and the Guyana Food Terminal] is intended to establish a significant transportation hub for food items in Barbados to transfer to hotel chains across different Caribbean islands, as well as then to transfer into Miami,” updated Guyanese President, Irfaan Ali in his feature speech at the launch of Barbados’ Agro Fest agricultural festival, which will take place in May 2022.

Improved logistical performance in terms of customs, transportation via ports, and internal links, in addition to the supply of modern logistics services, will be accepted in the region because there is plenty of scope to improve. For to consider, it’s more straightforward from an economic and logistical perspective to trade agricultural items between the Caribbean and the United States (US) than to sell similar items within the region.

“With everything you’re producing, if we aren’t able to bring it to the islands chain in a way that is affordable and speedy and affordable, then it’s of no value,” said Prime Minister Mottley of the need for improvements in infrastructure to ease the inter-regional flow of food.

World Food Programme (WFP), World Food Programme (WFP), Caribbean Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA)/ Government of Barbados Regional Logistics Hub & Center of Excellence

Elizabeth Riley, Executive Director (ED) of the Caribbean manage Disaster Management Agency (CDEMA), has stated that “the current multi-hazard situation within which the region operates has created the need for enhancing the emergency response logistics.”

It is the second most hazardous area globally, having sustained more than $22 billion in damages due to disasters from 1970 to 2016. efficient supply chain management from end to end of aid assistance is crucial for the region’s resilience to disasters.

It is a Regional Logistics Hub and Centre of Excellence that was inaugurated in August 2022. It is located at Grantley Adams Airport in Barbados and is expected to function as a central point of emergency logistics coordination in the English-speaking Caribbean. And will track aid and other items needed following catastrophes. Once operational, it’ll aid sea and air operations and serve as a prepositioning, emergency response center, and trans-shipment point for relief supplies.

The hub, created as a collaboration among the World Food Programme (WFP) as well as Barbados’ Government of Barbados, & the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency-(CDEMA), will also be a “center for excellence” that will be responsible for improving the logistics and emergency response capabilities of experts in the field of emergency logistics, warehouses and fleet management as well as last-mile delivery, which includes focusing and dispersing assistance.

There’s never been more need for a facility of such a kind in the Caribbean region. Climate changes have increased the chance that the Caribbean will see more major hurricanes in the years ahead.

The reality is that ” natural disasters occur more frequently and are more costly generally throughout the Caribbean than anywhere else, even in comparison to other smaller states,” which is a significant concern for the security of food in the region, which is comprised mainly of net importers of food with vulnerable, tiny agriculture sectors, huge populations living along the coast, and excessively exploited natural resources.

When Category 5 Hurricane Maria was a threat to Dominica in 2019, it caused losses of 226% of the GDP in 2016. From the point of view of post-disaster economic flows, agriculture was the largest affected sector. According to government sources, 80-100 percent of root crops, bananas, vegetables, plantains, and 90 percent of tree crops were destroyed, and livestock losses were estimated to be 90% of chicken stock and 45 percent of cattle. Alongside the destruction of farm equipment and buildings, the livestock and crop sectors suffered an estimated loss of $179.6 million. The fisheries industry was severely damaged, with 370 vessels being destroyed.

In 2017 Antigua and Barbuda was hit with one million dollars worth of losses to the agriculture sector. The fishing industry suffered $0.46 million of losses due to Irma’s hurricane. Irma.

The WFP Executive Director, David Beasley, was in August of 2022. WFP President David Beasley joined the Prime Minister (PM) of Barbados, Mia Mottley, CDEMA Executive Director (ED) Elizabeth Riley, & WFP Country Director of the Caribbean Multi-Country Office, Regis Chapman, to mark the opening ceremony for the new hub.

“Thank You for the remarkable collaboration,” said Mr. Beasley to Prime Minister Mottley. “We are sure there are going to be more hurricanes… It’s a fact that we can’t think of Mother Nature easing down any anytime soon. It’s not just about Barbados. It isn’t about Barbados all by itself. It’s about everything in the region.”

In highlighting the ongoing and increasing threat of climate change for the region, and the need to provide aid to those affected, Minister Mottley spoke about the logistics hub and the WFP-CDEMA-Barbados collaboration: “This was just simply intended to happen.”

“We need to be aware that regardless of how much money you have anywhere in the world, no matter the strength of your position as a country or company, you’re still not exempt from certain realities. That’s why global cooperation and moral, strategic leadership are required more than ever at present,” she continued.

In the report of the year 2015, Notre Dame Global Adaptation Country Index, The Caribbean is among the most vulnerable regions to climate change globally, as a matter of security food.

In its assessment of 189 nations that have the resilience of their food systems to the impacts of climate change, it put St. Kitts & Nevis and Antigua & Barbuda in positions 175 and 177, respectively. The two Caribbean countries were the at most two countries in the Americas that were included in the category of the 20 most climate-vulnerable countries around the globe regarding food security.

Out of the fourteen Caribbean countries included in the index, only two made it to the part that is more resilient to climate change of the ranking. These included Trinidad & Tobago, in the 66 spots, and Suriname, in the 72 2nd position of the 189 nations. Jamaica was ranked 99, Barbados was #107, Bahamas was #110, Belize was #115, and Guyana was #128. Dominica came in at #128. St. Vincent & the Grenadines was at #132, and Grenada was ranked #133. Haiti was ranked #135, and St. Lucia was #143 of 189 countries, which means that just 46 nations with less resilient food systems compared to St. Lucia.

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Country Index is in line with other research that reveals that Caribbean countries are among the countries most vulnerable around the globe to the impacts of climate.

“The Caribbean islands are right in the middle of climate change,” said David Beasley in his address at the inaugural launch of the Regional Logistics Hub.

Over the last seven decades, 511 disasters have affected Small Island Developing States, 324 of them occurring in the Caribbean and causing damage in an amount of gross domestic product that is six times greater than those of larger nations.

“As hurricanes increase in frequency and severity, it is essential to be prepared to ensure that lives are spared as well as livelihoods protected. The hard-earned development gains are secured,” said Mr. Beasley while looking at the potential site for the Regional Logistics Hub and Center of Excellence.

“We don’t come here by chance.”

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Adam Collins
Adam writes about technology, business and economics. With master's degree in Economics, he's presented six papers in international conferences. As a solivagant in the constant state of fernweh, curiosity is the main weapon in his arsenal.

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