EDITORIAL: Changing ‘Buy Local to ‘Buy CARICOM’
THE BARBADOS Agricultural Society (BAS) would undoubtedly empathize with a new call by its Jamaican counterpart, the Jamaica Agricultural Society, for citizens of that Caribbean Community partner state to “eat local” and shun imported foods this Christmas.
Indeed, this is a message that would easily resonate with governments and farming communities in general across our 15-member regional economic integration movement.
The harsh reality, however, is that consumers at large, in every CARICOM state, have to cope with recurring problems, not just of scarcities of local/regional foods, but also high prices.
There is also the related factor of the need for Barbados, Jamaica and their CARICOM partners to place much more emphasis on educational programmes that sensitize consumers – adults and children – on the nutritional value of the foods being produced within this region.
The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute has, over the years, played a most important role in focusing on the region’s potential for increased agricultural production and how to influence eating habits by sourcing and consuming nutritionally high foods within CARICOM.
Government leaders and cabinet ministers with portfolio responsibilities for agriculture, marketing and health are also often on the offensive in urging consumers to “buy local” and “eat right” (read that to mean nourishing foods).
Well intentioned as these exhortations are, there is an evident contradiction in relation to the official goal of “one market for one people” that’s at the core of CARICOM’s quest to transform a largely trade-based integration process into a seamless, regional economy, via the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
There is, therefore, an urgent need to change the emphasis from “buy local” to “buy CARICOM”. This would give more credence to the concept “one market, one people” and foster a positive mood to break the dependency syndrome on the foreign foods and beverages we import throughout the year at a cost of about BDS$8 billion annually.
The major problem standing in the way to phasing out the costly dependence on foreign imports with an enlightened policy for transformation of the agricultural sector to produce much of what we eat and drink is, evidently, the lack of political will by our governments.
That is the will to implement decisions unanimously taken by the CARICOM leaders that reflect their clear understanding of the problems confronting the
Community. The question is: why should our Community collectively sustain the annual outflow of billions of dollars that could be available for jobs-creating economic growth across the region?