Expert Working Group meets on ‘the business of food security’
May 26, 2013:
Day one of the two day Regional Expert Working Group Meeting on Roots and Tubers started off with an air of excitement and anticipation as participants representing the six countries along with representatives of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Value Chains Management International (VCM) and CARDI, gathered together in the Rio Claro Room of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port of Spain, Trinidad. The CTA funded project titled ‘Developing capacity to analyze and strengthen root and tuber value chain in the Caribbean Region, for improved food security’ has targeted the countries of Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, with the focus commodities of cassava, yams and sweet potato.
Mr. Bruce Lauckner, Officer in Charge of CARDI commenced the Meeting with an overview of the objective of the Project, which is to 'contribute to improved value chains for roots and tubers and their processed products, leading to increase in domestic consumption of these products and where possible, additional exports that will increase farmer incomes and promote food security’.
The first presenter was Mr. Andrew Shephard of Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). He stated that whist there is no one definition for value chains, it simply has to be the direct link from consumer to farmers. Mr. Shephard believes that value chains are dependent on the consumers since farmers are obligated to produce exactly what the consumers want. Admittedly, value chains are defined by the type of linkage between farmers and markets. Hence, if farmers produce quality goods then long term relationships would be forged between farmers and markets and traders can dictate to the farmers exactly what consumers’ wants and desires and farmers may oblige leading to vertical integration/partnerships in value chains. Mr. Shephard outlined the importance of knowing what consumers want since the breakage of one link can lead to the collapse of the entire chain. He believes that ‘linking the farmers to consumers via value chains would promote more effectiveness and efficiency in the Region and would also help develop marketing skills for all involved in the chain such as farmers, exporters, traders, processors and even consumers. Such skills will improve the efficiency of the chain and this is the first step to develop an outline of a methodology to enhance those skills’.
Mr. Martin Gooch, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Value Chain Management International, in his presentation, debated value chains as opposed to supply chains stating that the difference has to do with management. Mr. Gooch emphasized how very strategic consumers are to the product since they determine the value. He further stated that value chain management is about management choice; it is about competing on value and establishing strategic relationships. He says that “the benefits of implementing a roots and tubers value chain would develop more ambitious businesses that would lead to a stronger economy”.
Other presenters included Mr. Ardon Iton, Marketing Specialist, CARDI.
Mr. Renato Gumbs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines sees ‘the roots and tubers value chain as an opportunity for Governments and businesses to make money and the end result would be food security for consumers’. Whilst Mr. Alistair Edwards of St. Kitts and Nevis stated that benefits that would be realized from the value chain would be 'to formalize operations of farmers and players within the chain.' He stated succinctly that 'Food security is simply a finished benefit, business comes first.'
The expected results of the Project are:
Improved capacity of value chain actors in selected countries to analyse chains for roots and tubers (cassava, yam and sweet potato) in order to identify ways in which constraints can be overcome and chain efficiency can be improved
A practical methodology that can be used throughout the Region
Value chain stakeholders throughout the Region will be fully aware of the methodology and ways in which it can be used to assess roots and tubers value chains
There was a unanimous view that these results will be achieved as the approach for the Project was five-pronged, namely to assess roots and tuber value chain status in selected islands; review selected existing value chain methodologies; develop methodology suitable for Caribbean roots and tubers stakeholders; assess suitability of methodology developed for use by Caribbean stakeholders; and train Caribbean stakeholders in the use of the methodology.
Value chain management (VCM) is a systems-based approach, based on the premise that appreciable and continual improvements in businesses’ performance can only occur by establishing closer, more coordinated operations across functional departments and with other businesses than traditional, transactional buyer-seller relationships allow. The adoption of VCM approaches enables businesses to innovate in ways that are extremely difficult for competitors to replicate, leading to a greater ability than competitors to reduce costs while simultaneously increasing revenue.