Trinidad and Tobago: Growing and eating more of your own food

In this first of a three-part series for Trinidad and Tobago’s Guardian, Minister of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs Senator VASANT BHARATH, who has been campaigning to promote food security, says food stocks in developed countries are at an all-time low, the Caribbean is the most food insecure region of the hemisphere, and the global population will reach over nine billion by 2050—which is why, simply put, everyone needs to try their hands at home gardening.

Food touches all our lives, at least three times a day. Growing your own food is exciting, not only because you get to see things grow from nothing into ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables, but you also do not have to worry about the pesticides they might contain, and you certainly reduce the miles they—and you—have to travel.

As it turns out, with pretty minimal effort, anyone can be a gardener. Even I have tried my hands at some home gardening! It was just last year, in July, that the Ministry of Food Production, Land and Marine Affairs launched the National Campaign to promote food security with the tagline, “Put T&T on your table—eat healthy foods, grown right here!”

Through this campaign, we are attempting to create a brand called Trinidad and Tobago foods—our very own brand, grown right here. It is an indisputable fact that our local foods are nutritious, healthy and affordable. This year sees us focusing on ways in which to affect a downward trend in food prices.

Rising food prices are an international phenomenon, marshalling the attention of agencies the world over. So critical an issue was it that the theme for 2012 World Food Day is “Food Prices—from crisis to stability.” World Food Day is an international day, celebrated on October 16 each year, to recognise the importance of having healthy food available to all citizens of every nation.

Our country imports our basic foods when we can grow most of it here at home. We spend more than $4 billion annually on importing these foods. This means the more money we spend on importing food, the less we have to spend on other important things. There are five major issues that should encourage you to want to grow and eat more of your own food. They are:
• Surging economic growth and rising standards of living in developing countries that have resulted in an unprecedented demand for food. Food stocks in developed countries are at an all-time low.
• The Caribbean region is the most food-insecure region of the hemisphere. This is so because our relatively small size limits our capacity to produce all our food needs. Having said that, however, I hasten to add that we can produce more of what we consume.
• The agricultural sector contributes more than 25 per cent of the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP); more than 40 per cent of its exports; and provides jobs and employment for thousands of rural families.
• A study by the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) shows the agri-food distribution sector comprises over 17,000 companies, employing over 112,000 people and generating sales of over $5.6 billion annually, and
• The vagaries of climate change and high energy prices.

It is projected that the global population will reach over nine billion by 2050. This means that the world’s farmers must double agricultural production to meet the ever-increasing demand for food. And we all know that if there is a shortage, or an increase in demand, prices will increase. Recent reports are that there is an international trend of a continued increase in world food prices.

To be continued next week.

For the original report go to

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