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Words surely food for thought

Ricky Jordan

Words surely food for thought

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THE FEW WORDS of Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick, agricultural expert Dr Chelston Brathwaite and our new Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave spoke volumes last week, since all three men touched on one of the most current and urgently interconnected issues.
Brathwaite called on Barbadians, not for the first time, to grow their own produce so as to help reduce the massive food import bill, while Sir Elliott, in his inaugural acceptance speech on being installed as the island’s seventh Governor General, urged Barbados to maintain close links with our Caribbean Community (CARICOM) neighbours. Both were speaking in the context of the economic challenges.
Dr Estwick, meanwhile, called for Government’s urgently needed investment in the agricultural sector – and threatened to resign if this was not forthcoming.
The clarion calls were timely because Barbados and indeed CARICOM have to start looking – like yesterday – at options for food imports outside of the traditional trading partners such as the United States and Britain, whose economies are in a frightening state.
With the United States economy sputtering and European economies falling like dominoes, it will not be long before those countries have to look at shoring up each other’s food/agricultural sectors or, in desperation, offer less developed countries like ours temptingly exorbitant prices for the small amount of food we grow in the Caribbean.
The local farmers, who cry daily for a better deal nationally, would literally have a field day if European countries became desperate; but it would rob us of our own produce, as has been the case with local sugar, causing us then to have to import food from our neighbours in any case, or to import substandard generic stuff from God knows where!
So we may as well start cementing the CARICOM food links now and prepare for the ultimate scenario of truly having to feed ourselves and the possibility of Europe and North America paying top dollar for food from the Caribbean.
It’s no wonder that Estwick, a man of underestimated vision, has reacted with such frustration in the past week. For if agriculture is not put on the Government’s front burner, Barbados will be merely spinning top in mud.
But it’s not only Barbados which is testing the patience of those with vision. CARICOM on the whole continues to meet in regular heads of government conferences and caucuses, but instead of priority No. 1 being food security and the reduction of food imports, these are outweighed by concerns ranging from renewable energy to climate change which, though vitally important, call for more long-term efforts, planning and investment than food production.
Furthermore, instead of CARICOM mainly looking outward, it needs to prioritize the areas in which member states can sustain each other – mainly via food production – even while keeping an eye on G-20 discussions and Rio.
In fact, where G-20 is concerned, CARICOM needs to remember that most of those “wealthy” member states are toothless tigers struggling with either social upheaval or staggering debt; so they’re beginning to need us just as much as we need them.
What poetic justice for former imperialists which colonized and underdeveloped Africa, the Caribbean and others!
LIKE ENTERTAINMENT entrepreneur, Peter Boyce, on Facebook over the past weekend, there are some questions I’d like to ask concerning the Rihanna show slated for August.
Since the Barbados Tourism Authority has denied being involved in this event, is it in any way providing sponsorship which, said Boyce, “our calypsonians and calypso tents could be using”? Could any Government entity, having asked calypsonians, tent managers and masqueraders to hold strain on any increases for Crop Over 2012, be “looking to pay millions of dollars to sponsor an American rap show”? asks Boyce.
And I must also query: what real tourism benefit would such a show at such short notice bring to Barbados, since most people plan tours in advance?
what would be the benefit of such a show in Crop Over except to create a “feel good” hype in the run-up to the general election?
• Ricky Jordan is an associate editor of the Nation.