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Monday, January 23, 2006 

Food security is not a myth
Monday January 23 2006

How often have the words “Food Security” been used by politicians and agricultural technicians?
While the words speak volumes to the ability of a country to be able to feed itself, the harsh reality is that most of the Caribbean territories, and more so Antigua & Barbuda, continue to be net importers of food.

While the saying, “the development of any country starts with people who work the ground”, represents the importance of food security, this is not reflected in the plans and programmes for our forward movement towards economic prosperity.

One only has to reflect on the situation when the recent hurricanes hit Florida and the empty shelves in our shops and supermarkets because ships from this area were delayed by just one week.

Not only was there a noticeable absence of fresh fruits and vegetables, but householders were taken aback by the unavailability of essential food items to prepare a balanced meal at home.

Because this was only over a one-week period, the hardship was short lived and life returned to normal, but returned with an uncertainty as to when it would happen again – a World War?

This, however, must bring the issue of food security into sharp focus.

Governments must not continue to treat agricultural development and those involved as “second and sometimes last class” citizens”. Policies and investment strategies must address the issue of food security with a comprehensive, well developed plan.

Development strategies must now provide a “road map” for the future role of the agriculture sector and set out a policy framework and the investment priorities needed to achieve food security.

It is time for our policy makers to remove themselves from outlining policies that encompass the repeated themes of reducing food imports, saving and earning foreign exchange, achieving self-sufficiency and improving the nutritional standards of nationals and target the specific objective of food security.

It is important for us as an independent country to avoid the events of hurricane, social unrest or any other adverse condition in countries that we import our food from, to continue to determine our survival.

Governments must be challenged “to put their money where its mouth is” and implement projects and programmes geared towards the sustainable production of food from land and sea, to achieve the greatest measure of self-sufficiency and the production and distribution of foods of high nutritional value at reasonable prices.

Food security exists when all our people, at all times, have access to sufficient food to meet their dietary needs and food preference for any active and healthy life.

The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) is a Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) flagship for reaching the goal of halving the number of hungry people in the world by 2015.

In May 2002, a regional special programme for food security was developed, presented to and approved by Caricom governments at its COTED meeting.

A US$5 million project entitled “Promoting Caricom/CARIFORUM Food Security” is currently in its implementation stage in most of the OECS countries aimed at increasing local vegetable production and availability and to enhance the nutrition and incomes of farming community.

However, this is not enough.

To attain food security is a complex task for which the primary responsibility rests with the individual government.

Governments have to develop an enabling environment and have policies that ensure social, political and economical stability.

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