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We must look to support our own

Barbados Nation

We must look to support our own

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ONE OF THE persistent complaints of the Barbadian consumer has been about high and ever-rising food prices. It is an issue that has captured the attention of the two main political parties. So the comments from businessman David Foster that consumers are the ones to blame for this situation would have astonished many.

The crux of his argument is that many Barbadians opt for imported produce and products over local choices. This clamour for foreign things has a long history; the belief being that produce and products from developed countries are superior. The reality is that this is not true.

Barbadian farmers not only produce quality food crops and livestock, but play a critical part in the country’s food security through the provision of jobs, by helping to maintain a safe environment, save foreign exchange, and build a healthy community.

We must not become so dependent on imported food items that crop losses in North America or Europe would also mean chronic local shortages or implications for our supplies.

But it is the linkages between agriculture and other sectors that will be critical in helping bring about the desired change. The tourism industry as well as the retail sector both have critical roles to play if this country is to see not only direct growth in the agriculture sector, but to register expansion in related industries and innovation through research and development.

This weekend’s Food & Wine and Rum Festival is an ideal launch pad for introducing visitors and Barbadians to the first class culinary delights available from local inputs. This festival must go beyond showcasing international celebrity chefs to promoting the possibilities of local foods. This would send a strong message to the sceptics.

There is also the need for a major and consistent buy local campaign where all of the major retail supermarket outlets should source their fresh fruits, vegetables and meats from local farmers. The impact of any such decision would be widespread and could empower not only our farmers but a range of other businesses, given the ripple effect.

This could also be part of any initiative to help jump-start the economy.

Buy local campaigns are gaining interest worldwide but the one consistent demand is that what is on offer to the consumer must be of the highest quality and competitively priced.

Mr Foster has made a valid point; one which has to be acted on and no longer just talked about, since the solutions are in our hands. They require that we have greater faith in ourselves.

We must support our own.