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Can we reduce our food import bill?


by Linda Straker

  • EC$350 million food importation bill in 2019
  • Local food producers and processors did not benefit from panic purchasing
  • With fewer imports, more money will be circulating within the country
  • Farmers will become new upper middle class with sustainable income

In 2019, according to the Ministry of Trade, Grenada had a food importation bill of EC$350 million. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we might find ourselves having no choice but to change our taste because some of these foods may not be imminently available. Over the years we have heard ministers of Trade, Agriculture and Health speak about the need to consume more locally grown food. The Ministry of Trade has even embarked on a “Made in Grenada” campaign so that we as consumers can focus on consuming more of our locally grown fresh agricultural produce and those that are preserved through the various small outlets in our agro-processing industry.

There are no large scale agro-processing companies in the true sense of the word, but we do have agroprocessers who produce just enough for satisfied customers. The thinking of many nowadays is the need to stabilise our food security. Should our Ministry for Agriculture in collaboration with the ministries of Trade and Health develop a long-term campaign aimed at reducing our food import bill in the next 10 years? Our government, as well as governments in the region, took immediate action to lock down the countries to reduce and control the spread of Covid-19. Immediately we heard that there would be a food shortage. The Prime Minister in the first national address after the State of Emergency, comforted citizens by informing them that there was no food shortage because he had spoken to distributors and suppliers. This food shortage was anticipated by the many who enjoy imported food that is shown at times on television, making them feel that not having it, is missing out on a special excitement in life.

The fear of not having that special something had many engaging in panic buying since January. Because our local food producers and processors cannot afford the same level of promotion and advertising, they did not benefit from the panic purchasing and so a lot of what they produce are still on the shelves. We, therefore, believe that this pandemic period in which the term “new normal” is the latest trend, consuming of locally produced food should become the new normal.

“When you buy Grenadian, you will build Grenada,” should become a slogan of our food security campaign. Locally produced food has fewer preservatives and scientifically preservatives have been proven to be the root cause of many ailments. With fewer imports, more money will be circulating within the country and with more money, farmers will become the new upper middle class with a sustainable income. Covid-19 brings many challenges, but it also brings many opportunities which we must see for us to make use of them. We should never miss an opportunity, to miss an opportunity.

In the USA, history has shown that during the worst of times, many companies started in a kitchen or a basement and became international conglomerates in 10 to 20 years. Time for us as a nation to put down a food security plan that will make agriculture be our gold mine in 10 to 20 years because no public health pandemic could stop the production of food. The ability to feed ourselves should become our new mantra. Food security is all-encompassing and Covid-19 should be seen as agriculture’s resurrection.

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