Reducing the CARICOM food security bill is essential, but still potentially problematic

Chronicles of a Chronic West Indian Chronicler by Earl Bousquet

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been predicting since last November that the global food import bill in 2021 will hit an all-time high and exceed US$1.75 trillion, an increase of 14 % compared to the previous year and 12% compared to previous forecasts. in June 2021.

He also said that “developing regions account for 40% of the total” and that their overall food import bill is expected to increase by 20% in 2021 compared to 2020.

Even faster growth (in food imports) was expected for “low-income, food-deficit countries”, due to “higher costs than higher food import volumes”.

If CARICOM falls into the Low Income Food Deficit category, then CARICOM has its work cut out for it today – and now, more than ever.

But then, all of this also has to do with the preparedness and ability of governments and relevant regional institutions to convincingly encourage the Caribbean to change its consumption and purchasing habits.

Caribbean societies tend to highlight all the positive benefits of local foods, fruits and vegetables during World Food Day celebrations, but if consumers who can afford it prefer to buy based on packaging and taste , the majority are forced to shop according to their pockets and not their own means. palace.

Another big factor is how Caribbean tastes have strayed so far that it will take almost miracles to change.

The Caribbean basically grew up growing and exporting cocoa and importing chocolate, exporting bananas and importing apples and so on.

It is a Herculean task to change these patterns of consumption and until all CARICOM Member States are ready and willing to go the extra mile, the long race will not begin and victory will remain an elusive dream.

With CARICOM countries together importing over US$10 billion worth of food from outside the region in 2020 and the 2021 bill expected to be even higher, the need to cut the import bill more seriously food in the region could not be more urgent.

Regional governments will have to decide their position on the issue individually, as commitments at all levels are needed to achieve the goal of reducing the community’s food import bill by 25% by 2025.

And before the next CARICOM Heads of Government Summit (July 2022), participants from the 14 CARICOM Member States are expected to set the conditions, including the actions required and the interventions needed to achieve the goal.

CARICOM states recently reviewed taxes and duties, incentivizing agriculture, climate resilient and smart agriculture, productivity, technical support, crop identification for import substitution , consumption, consumption patterns and behaviors, data collection, monitoring system, regional transport infrastructure, agro-industry and create a regional brand.

It’s a good new start for a persistent problem that is only getting worse, with the region importing billions of dollars worth of food, many of which can be produced and processed in the region, but continue to be imported through combinations smart and effective marketing. and cultural dependence cultivated over decades from colonialism to independence.

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