THE EDITOR: TT perpetuates trading dependencies on the North for seedlings and food staples like flour, rice and dairy products. But the coronavirus containment measures will certainly restrict the access to foreign foods and impede the local supply of products in the upcoming months.
Tragically, our global supply chains will be cut off, local production of goods will possibly diminish, and food price inflation is imminent.
Nevertheless, the covid19 crisis may present a unique opportunity for all citizens to redirect our focus on local agriculture as a way of countering the nutrition vulnerability of the whole population.
Firstly, household gardening could be encouraged on national television and radio programmes through advertisements and TV shows.
If households are likely to be at home for the next two-three months, it is logical to educate the public to pursue the cultivation of cash crops that can grow in roughly ten weeks or less.
Hence, crops like tomatoes and lettuce, which are the most expensive crops per kg, in the large state markets at Namdevco must be grown in larger volumes by householders.
Also, cash crops like ochro, bodi, eggplant, peppers and green seasonings can be grown in backyard facilities or in recycled containers.
Interestingly, our Minister of Agriculture has stated that the ministry is able to provide seedlings to the general public at a subsidised rate. If this is the case, we should know when and where to go to pick up our plants and seedlings, as the situation is becoming dire.
Dr Lystra-Fletcher Paul commented that this country has already lost access to seedlings and plants from abroad (Jamaica Gleaner, March 22). This current trend is confirmed by economist Omardath Maharaj, who has mentioned that local nurseries are struggling to cater to the local demand for seedlings at this time.
Secondly, food production can only be enhanced if there is an available water supply. The Agriculture Ministry must try to assist farmers in accessing water storage and irrigation technologies.
We must be very worried that drought conditions have persisted in the Caribbean since the emergence of global warming. Moreover, June signals the start of the hurricane season, a time in which we need to efficiently capture and treat water for the general public and also for farmers.
Thirdly, certain foods that are consumed locally could be mass produced in the country with guidance from UWI and UTT’s Eastern Caribbean Institute of Agriculture and Forestry experts.
For example, TT should try to produce its own carrots, like Jamaica and return to large-scale rice farming, like Guyana. The soil, temperature and gradient certainly make these crops viable for large-scale production. It does provide us with comparative advantages.
The beauty of these initiatives is that as workers become more involved in this industry, the food import bill decreases, thus reducing the strain on our demand for US currency.
I have suggested much-needed nationwide household gardening, efficient water access and import substitution. Indeed, we must change our gluttonous obsession with foreign food and promote local farming at a time when the virus discriminates against no one.