Of the 15 nations in the Caribbean Community, four have proven oil and gas reserves that the chairman of the bloc says must now be harnessed to capitalize on a global shortage of fertilizer caused in part by the Russia-Ukraine war.

President Chan Santokhi of Suriname, chair of the bloc until the end of this year, says an abundance of gas found since 2015 in Guyana and neighboring Suriname must and should be used for the economic and developmental good of the Caribbean region as there is a large market for fertilizers made partly from nitrogen and other gasses.

He was speaking at the weekend ahead of Sunday night’s opening of the three-day regional leaders summit in Suriname’s capital, Paramaribo.

He argued that now is the time for Guyana, Suriname and the region to capitalize on the global shortage and high prices for fertilizers as he called on colleagues to come up with a strategy to help the bloc achieve this.
Of the 15, Trinidad, Guyana, Suriname and Barbados are oil producers, with Trinidad by far having the most developed industry as its sector dates back to more than 100 years of production and exploration. Trinidad is a major producer and exporter of gas, petroleum products and fertilizers including ammonia. In the case of Barbados and Suriname, both produce oil from onshore wells with the former producing around 16,000 barrels daily and Barbados less than 2000 barrels from inland wells. Both have indicators of the presence of gas onshore.

In the past two years, however, some of the global super majors such as ExxonMobil, Apache Oil and France’s Total have found abundant oil and gas resources offshore Suriname. Actual production in Suriname is not due to begin for the next two years, and like Guyana which found a humongous amount of oil and gas offshore in 2015, both will have to find external markets for the commodity as their small populations and manufacturing sectors would not be able to consume or utilize such large amounts.

Therefore, Santokhi argues, ways must be found to help Guyana and Suriname with their abundant supplies to fast track production and convert the gas into nitrogen and other gas-linked fertilizers, as there is a big market for it. He said western sanctions against Russia and its neighboring ally Belarus have led to higher prices, making the prospects of regional production even more encouraging.

Discussion about a regional energy policy and security is a big ticket agenda item for the leaders this week, alongside plans aimed at reducing the staggering $5 billion annual food bill, climate change, adaptation and mitigation among others.

In the case of The Bahamas, for example, leaders there say the archipelago just east and south of Florida have suffered $5 billion in infrastructure and other damage since 2015 as the nation has been battered by increasingly more powerful storms like Dorian in September 2019. For the region, climate change is a major issue. The Guyana-based secretariat says leaders want to press the west to keep climate financing pledges at recent world summits to help developing nations and regions like the Caribbean.

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