Neilands wants drive for local food
Retired managing director of Super Centre Limited, David Neilands, wants to see local food production stepped up to “tip the balance” with imported alternatives.
He has also spoken out in support of efforts by local food and drink manufacturers to reduce the salt and sugar content while calling for nutritional information to be “well displayed” in the labelling of food and drink from both local and international sources.
Neilands spoke about the impact of the local and international food industry on the alarming incidence of obesity, heart disease and stroke when he addressed over 200 guests at a fund-raising dinner organised by the Heart and Stroke Foundation Saturday.
Calling on Barbadians to “eat what we grow, grow what we eat”, he said a number of local farmers had indeed made great strides in food production, noting almost 50 per cent of produce sold in major supermarkets was locally grown.
Yet he thought Barbados was capable of doing a much better job of feeding itself and he referred to “a deep gap” between agricultural production and agro processing.
Neilands claimed those involved in the distribution and retailing of food had “stuck to just that, leaving any kind of creativity to small manufacturers, many of whom cannot afford the raw materials to be creative in the production of more indigenous foods.” He also regretted that enough was not being done to help local famers “contemplate diversity”.
A member of the Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) Commission, Neilands quoted statistics which indicated that 50 per cent of the world’s population was overweight, figures that included one in three children and one out of every five adolescents in the Caribbean.
He regretted that a project designed to reward secondary schools which had linked their agricultural and nutritional syllabus, introduced as a pilot scheme in two schools by the NCD Commission two years ago, was at a stalemate. Efforts to expand the programme to 11 other schools had been foiled by “bureaucracy”, he said.
Chief executive officer of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Gina Pitts, appealed to guests seated under a massive tent on the lawns of the official residence of British High Commissioner Victoria Dean, to dig deep in their pockets to support the foundation’s work.
After dinner, British pop icon Sir Cliff Richards took guests on a nostalgic journey down memory lane with some of his big hits, to a standing ovation from an audience that included former British singer, actress and television personality Cilla Black, Barbadian business magnate Sir Charles Williams, consultant paediatric cardiologist Dr Richard Ishmael, and Sharon Griffith with her 13-year-old son Shaquille, who has been awaiting a heart transplant for 11 years.