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Ensuring the 620 million people of the Caribbean and Latin America have decent, healthy food during the coronavirus crisis is the aim of a major new collaboration.

Agriculture and rural development officials from 25 nations – including Antigua and Barbuda’s Samantha Marshall – have signed their names to a declaration detailing a plan of action.

 Measures include giving technical and financial help to farmers, fishers and agro-industrial producers; helping wholesale markets stay afloat; setting up emergency programmes to prevent food waste such as through food banks; and promoting the use of electronic food commerce platforms, among others.

“Currently, the region’s markets have enough food to ensure supplies,” a release from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

“Global stocks of major foods are at a good level, and harvests in major producing countries have been good. Eighteen million farmers, fisher folk, ranchers and fish farmers, men and women, continue to work day by day in our region, so that food is not lacking on our tables.”

Unlike previous crises, the food supply has remained stable worldwide, it continued. “Therefore, there are no reasons that justify significant increases in international food prices, and we call on all actors in the food system to prevent speculation at this time of emergency.”

But the FAO warned that if the pandemic is protracted, food supply chains will come under increased pressure.

“In this sense, if all countries strive to keep local, national, regional and global supply chains operating, we can ensure food in a sustainable way for the entire population,” it added. “For this, we commit ourselves to act in coordination, exchanging information and good practices, and to adopt appropriate measures in accordance with the reality of each country.”

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