VIDEO: Food security threat - ‘We have no food reserves’

CASE officials insist on measures to stave off a possible disaster

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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JAMAICA'S food security is under threat and measures must be instituted now to prevent a disaster, two technical experts have said.




Officials of the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) who attended yesterday's Monday Exchange with Observer editors and reporters at the newspaper's Beechwood Avenue headquarters, agreed that crucial political decisions must be made in order to secure Jamaica's ability to constantly feed the popoulation.

The college's vice-president of academic programmes, Major Johnathan Lamey, and Winston Jones, director of international programmes at the institution, suggested that the time for talk had long gone, and the time to act was now.

"We see a looming crisis if things continue like this. It is distinctly possible. We need to measure how food secure we are in this country," Major Lamey said in his wide-ranging presentation.

"If we do not change our lifestyles, in terms of what we eat ... eat what we grow, we will never be a food-secure country," Jones said.

"We have no food reserves. If we have a hurricane we are in trouble. When the banana trees go down, that's it. We store our bananas on the trees," Jones added.

Major Lamey, who once headed CASE's forerunner, the College of Agriculture before it was merged with the Passley Gardens Teachers' College to form CASE, said that Jamaica needs to move now in setting up efficient storage systems, so that the nation may be able to deal with tough times, if they occur.

"The United States is overwhelmingly food secure, they don't have to buy food from anybody else. What they do is control the food supply for many nations; Canada is very food secure, England too, even though they import banana, it's just a delicacy they put on the table, but they don't depend on us for their staples. China, too, is food secure.

"The countries that recognise the professional nature of food security will fix it first then they develop industries. If we are not food secure, we will all starve. Jamaica is vulnerable," Major Lamey said.

Jones, who also lectures in food science, emphasised that if Jamaica does not muster the political will to make things happen, the country will be 'pushed on the back foot'.

"We have to have a political will to do the things that must be done. We need to make a commitment to produce what we can.

"Coffee is not doing well, sugar is in crisis, pimento is a neglected crop... it has been ignored. Ginger has also been ignored, at the same time that the Chinese have sent for our ginger because of its potency. We need to do more in these areas to try and boost our food security.

"If we do not come up with some means of food preservation, we will be in trouble. We need a Net International Reserves (NIR) for food. Until we can invest in that we are going to have an issue," he said.

The high consumption of imported food, Jones said, was adding to the problem.

"We know that Jamaica's food security is under threat if we look at the kind of food that we eat... the most common meat in Jamaica is chicken back, which is dictated by income distribution.

"A pound of chicken back will take about three backs. Pig's tail that we love so much, how many tails does a pig have? ... one. So how many pigs have to die for you to get a pound of pig's tail. Pigs make a big sacrifice.

"Many of the things that we eat are not produced here. When you are a net importer of food, you have an issue with food security," Jones said.


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