Over the past two decades, agriculture in the Caribbean has been in a state of decline, in terms of both productivity and competitiveness. Historically, Caribbean agriculture consisted of the production and export of traditional bulk commodities, notably bananas and sugar, as well as rice, coffee and cocoa. This activity was based on preferential trade arrangements with the European Union, under the Lomé Conventions and The Cotonou Agreement. With the removal of preferential access based on quotas for traditional crops and other reforms to the EU’s trading policies, as well as the increased pressure of globalization, Caribbean agriculture has struggled to compete internationally, and has experienced considerable reductions in the production of crops for local consumption as well. Agriculture is also a key source of employment in many Caribbean countries, accounting for approximately 16% of the overall employment in the region — 30% in Guyana, 25% in Dominica, 20% in St. Lucia, and 18% in Jamaica. Continued decline in agriculture will therefore have significant impacts on the economic and social viability of rural communities; and if left unchecked, will likely result in deterioration of real incomes and an increase in poverty rates in rural communities. Through their work in private sector development, the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) Group, and Compete Caribbean (CC) are dedicated to fostering economic growth and revitalizing this key sector in the Caribbean. The M IF and CC commissioned this study on sustainable agriculture initiatives in order to identify its constraints for development at both the systemic sector level and at the farm level. Since agricultural production in the region is dominated by smallholder farmers who are undercapitalized, technologically conservative, unaware of best practices and certification standards, and extremely vulnerable to climate change effects, a policy framework should be established to support coordinated investment.

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