Agriculture and food security: Save St Lucia’s farmland and help curb food inflation

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In the light of COVID-19 and conversations surrounding food security, agribusiness models, new technology – and perceive government policy, subtitled, ‘agriculture and food security’.

“The priority focus areas set out in the Agricultural Policy Framework and Strategy (2016-2021) include the enhancement of national food and nutrition security, as well as agricultural diversification and reduction of the food import bill. 

“The government intends to continue to emphasize these areas, together with the resuscitation of the banana industry and Building Resilience to Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction. The Plant Protection Act will be revised to prevent and control the entry of pests into Saint Lucia, adhere to the International Plant Protection Convention, and facilitate trade in plants and plant products.”

Caribbean News Global (CNG) under special authorization, republish the following extracts dated October 23, 2013;

If you examine Saint Lucia’s landscape, it is predictable. What is lacking is government’s ability to act. From Gros Islet in the north, right down to Vieux Fort in the south, you can’t miss the glaring evidence of failure on the agricultural front.

Looking at the landmass that rolls over hills and plateaus, and along the coastal regions of the island, it would be safe to conclude that Saint Lucia might have been able to better withstand the global challenges that currently confront the nation had government invested heavily in agriculture, and made it the bedrock of the nation’s economy.

But instead of the government being proactive and putting the enormous weight of their public office towards transforming the island into a self-sustainable agricultural paradise, they prefer to engage in political semantics and polarization; thus obtaining the very same trivial results that do nothing to advance Saint Lucia’s economic wellbeing.

Recognizing the unprogressive environment from which the Saint Lucia government operates, it is not difficult to understand why the old challenges remain.

In fact, 35 years after the island set itself on the path of independence, GDP continues to crawl; food inflation remains high, spending power and negative consumption patterns continue to persist. Low expectation of growth continues to inflate the deficit and impede upon infrastructural development, as well as having a negative impact on national educational programs and the business climate in general.

Again, the missing link required to spur the economic recovery is right before our very eyes. A quick look at the number of unproductive farmlands and other unutilized lands, coupled with the growing unemployed workforce in the country, is enough to alarm everyone.

Therefore, the time to improve Saint Lucia’s food self-sufficiency, and move in a direction where large amounts of goods and services are produced with the use of new and modern technology, is now.

“We don’t simply need change, we need rethinking,” — the kind that aims to curb inflation through education, and raise the standard of living by creating good-paying jobs within the agricultural sector.

A closer examination of the behavioral pattern in the Saint Lucian economy during the 70s and 80s is living proof that, had the country sustained the agricultural discipline of diversity and local production, poverty could have been eradicated altogether. The boom years of the banana industry is proof of such — an era that produced a remarkable economic revival throughout the nation.

But with the dwindling enthusiasm for agriculture that became very evident in the 90s, coupled by urbanization and mass migration out of Saint Lucia, it would appear that the economic situation has become more risky than any given period in the post independence years since 1979.

At this time there is a need to correct these concerns with a concerted effort to protect farmlands, water resources, and animal habitat via a National Land Trust, and to keep farmlands in the hands of farmers for generations to come.

Once that is established, it is essential that landowners and farms develop a business plan to run a viable farm business – with the assistance of agricultural and management institutions to help build capacity, strengthen resources for efficiency and productivity.

Moreover, taking into account that a proposed national food policy to strengthen the food industry, rural agricultural-based development, and to improve the economic well-being of farmers is now more than ever a welcome refresher — that should be reason enough to act. Please refer to the article entitled “We have agriculture; it’s time for agribusinesses” dated May 26, 2011.

These changes can take place, especially in an environment where farmland is available, to allow farmers the opportunity to grow fresh local food with the option to make agribusiness an investment worth pursuing.

The revenue from this undertaking would go a long way to develop rural economies and contribute in the development of the social fabric of communities nationwide.

The full article is available here.

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