COVID-19 Exposes Food First Policy
Covid-19 (Coronavirus) was classified by the World Health Organization this week as a pandemic. The aggressive infection rate has forced unprecedented decisions, Italy is on ‘lock down’, President Trump has issued a travel ban on traffic originating in Europe… cancellations of major sporting events. Although Barbados has not reported its first case up to the time of updating the blog, neighbouring English speaking countries have not been so ‘lucky’.
It seems now is a perfect time to place on the agenda the discussion about FOOD SECURITY or to borrow from the late Carmeta Fraser’s lexicon, FOOD FIRST. From the inception of Barbados Underground in 2007 we have had vigorous debate about the need to integrate food production into a service based economy. To date it has been given lip service by successive governments.
We have been producing a type of economist and academic at Cave Hill who are singularly of the view that if it is cheaper to import food, it is better to concentrate on earning forex to procure our food. It is only when we have disruption to global supply chains that we are stunned into realizing such an approach is not sustainable in a world locked at the hip. The technocrats refer to it as globalization. What makes the situation interesting with the Coronavirus is that CHINA, one of the world’s supplier of food and other commodities, is the main source of the disruption.
In today’s press there is an advertisement of former CLICO lands for lease by the takeover company. It will hammer home the realization again that we have available land space to help ourselves to produce food.
Some will argue Barbados will never be self sufficient in food production – cost of production is too high, however, there is a level of comfort knowing that a country is helping itself to feed its population. We subsidize tourist travel to Barbados to the tune of millions. There is a comfort knowing that there is a level of local food production to mitigate when disruption to world production is negatively impacted. The current Minister of Agriculture and his predecessors can pontificate about policy as much as they want, the proof is always in the eating and as often as the blogmaster scans the Central Bank reports, there has been no measurable increase in the output numbers in the agriculture sector since Adam was a lad. The blogmaster accepts that Agrofest is a good show to take the family for the annual lime of the year.
As an old BU family member use to post, ‘are we there yet‘?
Will we allow another crisis to escape us?
Now is a time for the government to shape relevant policy and for the private sector to execute on the policy and change the way we are to solve our problems.
To borrow from another BU commenter, ‘Will our leaders please stand up‘?