Everyone is talking about the sorry economic plight of Jamaica. And sorry it is indeed. The public debt is fast approaching twice the total value of all goods and services produced on the island; and almost 60 per cent of government income is required just to service that debt. In such a dire situation, everyone is required to do his or her own little bit. And that could be possible if every Jamaican decided to eat more food that is grown in Jamaica by Jamaicans.
As Barry Higman's wonderful book, Jamaican Food, lavishly illustrates, Jamaica has a marvellously eclectic variety of sumptuous plant food including roots, stems, fruits, and seeds that for centuries have provided the basis for divine meals. His book should be in every parish library. Higman reminds us of how lucky Jamaicans are where food crops are concerned.
Included in the excellent book by Higman are cassava, zamia, arrowroot, yam, coco, sweet potato, Irish potato, artichoke, ginger, sarsaparilla, callaloo, cabbage, onions, escallion, garlic, cucumber, banana, plantain, breadfruit, ackee, avocado, mango, jackfruit, coconut, pineapple, pawpaw, and the list could go on and on. Add to this list, the varieties of domestic animals, fowls and fish, and it is readily apparent that Jamaica is a culinary paradise.
The problem for Jamaicans and the government is to organise adequate production to satisfy the domestic demand. Finding ways to boost production of the basic food items in every parish and then setting up competitions to display and promote various dishes, Jamaica could find itself in a win-win situation. Farmers would benefit and people would eat better. Certainly this is a way for Jamaica to eat its way to general economic prosperity.