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posted 15 Oct 2010, 11:45 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 15 Oct 2010, 11:50 ]
There is much concern in Trinidad and Tobago about the very high food prices and the effect on poor people. More specifically,there exists in Trinbago, a large number of low fixed income earners – minimum wage workers, CEPEP workers, the differently-abled, pensioners, and squatters, among others, who are spending most of their income on food alone. As their jobs and meager earnings become increasingly unsure, so too will their food 
and nutrition situation become more insecure.

Laying Blame 

Politicians and economists, especially those at the Central Bank, are today crying about “Food Inflation,” saying that the increase in fruit and vegetable prices is the cause, and, by extension, laying the blame at the feet of local farmers and vendors. Nothing can be further from the truth. 


But, the truth is that food insecurity and hunger are highly complex political issues of global proportions. Translated into Trinbagonian it means: 

- While the prices and supply of locally-grown vegetables vary up and down from week to week, the price of imported food is going up steadily over the last decade; 

- The local food importers have a business in excess of $4 billion and rising, to protect. Go to the conglomerate supermarkets and see the amount of vegetables and fruits – which can be grown locally – and check their high prices; 

- And, when you consider that every grain of red bean, blackeye, dhal, lentil, channa; every ounce of cheese and butter (margarine for the poor people); every drop of cooking oil; every tin of sardine and corned beef; 100% flour; 80% rice; 100% sugar IS IMPORTED, it begs the question: Who cause that? 

Domestic food production is systematically being destroyed: 

- Every 5 years, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on repairing and repaving good highways and roads while agricultural access roads are in poor condition or almost non-existent; 

- Hundreds of acres of farmland are being bulldozed for housing and factories; 

- All the inputs for local agriculture are imported – seeds, fertilizers, machinery, (even a cutlass when we have a local steel mill), and the costs have been increasing exponentially. 

Some recommendations 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has declared UNITED AGAINST HUNGER as the theme for World Food Day 2010. This unity must involve people, institutions, communities, farmers and consumers at all levels. 

The People’s Partnership must commit resources – financial, technical, human resources, land and engage all citizens, its relevant agencies and Ministries in a united effort to increase food security. 

Community-based organisations must join this front - UNITED AGAINST HUNGER - by engaging in urban agriculture and ensure that space is allocated for this activity: 

- Every household should grow something – vegetables, seasonings, fruit, keep a goat, a few chickens, for example; 

- Agriculture should not only be taught in schools but must be practised. A lot of good work in this area is already ongoing and must be expanded; 

- Technical tips and starter support must be provided to such community activity. 

Farmers’ organisations must unite in the effort set common goals to feed the nation, earn a livelihood and contribute to global food security. 

Without local farmers, food prices will move beyond the reach of the poor and the middle class. 

Government must ensure that Agriculture becomes a pillar of the economy. 

Most important, farmers must be given the opportunities, the incentives, and, above all, the enabling environment, to produce FOOD FOR THE NATION.