Thursday, May 1, 2008

Spector of Food Insecurity in the Caribbean

Food security has always been somewhere under the radar for most Caribbean countries, but it is suddenly ‘the topic’ on everyone’s tongue. With the continuous increase in the price of oil and gas, food prices are increasing at an alarming rate. The Economist magazine published an article online where the food security crisis is referred to as the ‘silent tsunami’.

In early April there were riots in the improvised Caribbean island of Haiti as the price of food spiraled out of control. The result was a virtual shut down of the capital city, Port-au-Prince and the death of six persons, while many others were injured.

Jamaica is also making the issue of food security a priority. So serious is the matter that the government is looking at re-introducing rice farming to the island. The idea of backyard gardening encouraged in the socialist era of former Prime Minister Michael Manley is once again being put forward.

One of the problems facing Jamaica as it looks at improving food security and supply is how to be less dependent on exports and become more self reliant. The consensus now from many quarters and one being advocated by a former National Champion Farmer, Egbert ‘Bob’ Miller, is for Jamaicans to “eat what they grow and grow what they eat”.

Jamaica has been warned by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture to reduce its dependence on imports. A spokesperson for the Jamaica chapter of the organization said:

“We believe that Jamaica has to correct its heavy dependence on food imports and start consuming and producing more local food if the country is to maintain an acceptable level of food security over time.”

This is a message that is relevant for the other islands that make up the region.

There are now reports that rice is in short supply in Jamaica, especially since there is a problem with getting adequate supplies from Guyana. However, today (April 30) it was announced that the Jamaica Flour Mills will try to ease the shortage by importing 30, 000 tonnes of rice. The country’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Investment, the Honorable Karl Samuda said of the move:

“We intend to bring that rice to the Jamaican people at a price that is competitive with the Guyanese rice under the same provisions that the rice from Guyana comes in.”

The seriousness of a possible shortage of food worldwide is not lost on Caribbean nationals at home and in the Diaspora. The widespread food riots not only in Haiti, but also in Africa (Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal an others) and Asia (Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand) is causing more than a little concern.

Many experts are predicting that food insecurity will continue to grow. One of the major concerns that few in the Caribbean want to address out loud is the issue of pending starvation if food prices continue to go up and food supplies decrease.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks


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Anonymous said...

I think there will be food scares where ever people are living. You should be more concerned of the dish detergent your dishwasher leaves behind! haha, but there is usually no worries, I found a great site here,
that has some history of the Caribbean food, its a good read if you like different culturally unique food!

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