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Invest Caribbean 2011 Opens With Engaging Discussion On Innovative Export And Domestic Production Opportunities In The Caribbean Agribusiness Sector

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The annual symposium of Caribbean American Business Leaders convened by the Institute of Caribbean Studies opened this morning with experts in leveraging investment and partnerships in the export and domestic production infrastructures of Caribbean countries.
Featured on this morning’s plenary was Jean Smith, General Manager of the Jamaica Exporters’ Association; Jerry Butler, Chairman of the Caribbean Renewable Energy Forum; and Elliott Paige, Manager for Trade and Investment at the Caribbean Export Development Agency. Former Ambassador of St. Kitts & Nevis, H.E. Dr. Izben Williams moderated the roundtable, setting the tone with a discussion of today’s news of emerging developments in the energy sector in Barbados.
Ms. Smith highlighted the Jamaica Export Initiative and its priorities, as well as stressing the need for additional training and new technologies in order to empower local farmers to better manage the pre- and post-harvest process. She also noted the gap in understanding effective market appeal as it relates to packaging products relied upon as export revenue, passing out as examples of good products from Jamaica available in duty-free transit stores in airports.
Mr. Butler led a stimulating discussion on several emerging opportunities for solid public-private partnerships within the renewable energy, noting the dependence of this sector on agriculture. He shared how the work of CREF has facilitated sound trade practices enabling Caribbean governments to expand the capacity in their respective agribusiness sector and add value to their presence within the global marketplace.
Mr. Paige contributed key insights on measures that local farmers and agri-processors can take to overcome the lack of understanding the value chain process, which has resulted in the sale of the highest section of the process to other countries to the detriment of the local economies in the Caribbean. “We have to understand that the success of the agribusiness sector depends upon capturing innovation and quality for ourselves, and not selling it to someone else,” he said, further noting that the utilization of collective bargaining by farmer associations can improve the value of their production process.
The roundtable discussion included an exploration of research and partnerships of waste-to-energy models of production, branding and intellectual property, and sustainable development in the rural housing market. The one-day symposium, “Mining The Agribusiness Value Chain,” continues with a series of focused roundtables, highlighted by a luncheon, “Stories from The Field,” moderated by St. Kitts and Nevis Ambassador to the U.S., H.E. Jacinth Henry-Martin. Today’s conference will culminate this evening with the 18th Annual Caribbean American Heritage Awards gala.

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