In the Caribbean, food security is a complex issue, characterised by several challenges that hinder the availability, accessibility, utilisation, and stability of food. In fact, according to data released by the World Food Programme and CARICOM in May 2023, 52 percent – some 3.7 million people - of the English-speaking Caribbean face some degree of food insecurity daily. This includes eating less, skipping meals, and in extreme cases, going at least one day without food because they are unable to meet their overall food requirements.
Let’s take a look at the factors impacting these numbers.
Socioeconomic Factors and Inequalities
- Poverty, unemployment, and income inequality undermine individuals' purchasing power and access to nutritious food.
- Limited access to education and training opportunities hinders agricultural innovation and productivity enhancement.
- Gender disparities persist, affecting women's access to resources, decision-making power, and involvement in the agricultural sector.
Limited Agricultural Resources and Fragile Ecosystems
- Limited arable land and freshwater resources pose challenges to expanding agricultural production.
- Soil degradation and erosion due to unsustainable farming practices further reduce the productivity of available land.
- Fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs and mangroves face degradation, impacting fisheries and the overall food system.
Economic and Financial Constraints
- Inadequate infrastructure, including transportation and storage facilities increases post-harvest losses and reduces market reach.
- Limited access to credit and financial resources hampers agricultural investment and modernisation.
- High energy costs and limited access to affordable energy sources affect production costs and the competitiveness of Caribbean farmers.
Dependence on Food Imports
- Lack of diversified agricultural production limits self-sufficiency and exposes the Caribbean to economic shocks and trade imbalances.
- Limited domestic food production capacity leads to heavy dependence on foreign markets, contributing to food insecurity.
- High reliance on food imports makes the region vulnerable to global price fluctuations and supply chain disruptions.
Climate Change and Natural Disasters
- Frequent occurrences of hurricanes, tropical storms, and droughts impact crop production and infrastructure, leading to food scarcity.
- Rising sea levels and coastal erosion threaten agricultural land, reducing cultivable areas and undermining food production.
- Increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events disrupts supply chains, causing food price volatility and supply shortages.
Addressing food security challenges in the Caribbean requires a comprehensive approach that incorporates climate change adaptation, sustainable agricultural practices, investment in infrastructure, and social programs to alleviate poverty and promote inclusivity. Collaborative efforts between governments, regional organisations, and international partners are crucial in building a resilient and food-secure future for the Caribbean.
Watch the July edition of the Central Bank of Barbados’ Caribbean Economic Forum, “Addressing Food Security in the Caribbean,” on Wednesday, July 12 at 8:00 p.m. to hear more about what’s being done and what can be done in future to support the region's food security.