Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs

Government of Antigua and Barbuda

on the occasion of the

41st Session of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)

Rome, Italy

22nd – 29th June 2019


Distinguished delegations

Ladies and Gentlemen

For those of us in small island developing economies, we must constantly seek to sustainably and efficiently modernise agriculture and the maritime economy to improve production efficiency, achieve food security and profitability and create additional business and job opportunities for our people. These imperatives are at the core of successfully realising the Sustainable Development Goals. Policies and strategic interventions must be developed and frameworks for implementation prioritised to ensure that we accomplish these reforms by 2030.

It is an open secret that we cannot effect these reforms alone. South-south and triangular partnerships that unlock financial and technical resources while simultaneously strengthening local institutions and building local capacity must form the bedrock of our shared ambitions to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Our collective commitment to achieving these goals must focus on increasing resilience through evidence-based decision making and innovative financing for investment in technology and human capital.

Agriculture represents less than 1% of the GDP of Antigua and Barbuda. Notwithstanding our limited land mass, we are committed to increasing agriculture to 5% of our GDP, creating opportunities for youth and women farmers to profitably engage in agriculture in identified areas and becoming self-sufficient in certain crops. We are currently developing programmes using greenhouses and conducting research to inform our national policy.

The oceans are central to sustainable development globally but particularly so for small island developing states. Antigua and Barbuda has a combined land mass of 440 km2 and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 107,914 km2 . We are now focusing attention on the requirements for developing sustainable and resilient ocean-based blue economies in a region where the ocean economy is estimated to generate revenues of US$407 billion. This figure is equivalent to 14 to 27% of the estimated value of the global ocean economy.

One area that our Government is promoting is the development of a sustainable fish farming industry in Antigua and Barbuda. We are importing over US$1 million of tilapia fish alone yet the opportunity exists to significantly reduce this importation by producing and packaging this fish locally. With targeted investment, we can transform this into an area which meets local demand but also produces fish for export.

The impact of natural disasters and climate change pose the greatest threat to developing our agricultural and maritime economies. The 2017 hurricane season remains one of the most compelling examples of just how significant a challenge is posed to our region by climate change. Hurricane Irma decimated Barbuda wiping out 25% of our GDP in hours. Our neighbour Dominica saw 226% of its GDP wiped out by Hurricane Maria. The uninsured losses to the Caribbean region from Hurricane Irma alone are estimated at between $7 and $15 billion and insured losses between $40 billion and $85 billion.

Antigua and Barbuda has demonstrated leadership as champions for clean oceans by not settling for the status of being mere victims of climate change. In 2016 we pioneered the first ban on single use plastic bags and Styrofoam in the Caribbean region. We were among the first signatories of the Commonwealth Clean Oceans Alliance which seeks to galvanise support to tackle plastic pollution.

We are from different backgrounds and from different regions and in various stages of agricultural and maritime development but critically we share one planet. I am confident that if we work together, share ideas and best practices, we can achieve the ultimate goal of food security and poverty elimination and by extension national and global security. Antigua and Barbuda looks forward to working with the FAO and with its member states to advance our shared commitment to the SDGs.

This is after all our 2030 Vision.

Thank you all.