by Curlan Campbell, NOW Grenada
- Emergency response plan for food security in progress
- Grenada’s economy is largely dependent on food importation
- Hoarding of food items is expected to exacerbate food availability
The Ministry of Agriculture is finalising an emergency response plan for food security that will be unveiled to the public once completed.
Heads of Departments within the ministry met earlier this week to decide on the way forward for Grenada with regards to ensuring that local production of food is not significantly affected by the spread of the coronavirus which has prompted both regional and international governments to close their borders. Such drastic but necessary measures meant that small island developing states like Grenada whose economy is largely dependent on the importation of food, will be adversely affected.
Furthermore, the hoarding of food items due to nationwide panic is expected to exacerbate food availability and contribute to increases in food prices.
Although the emergency response plan has not yet been made public, officials at the ministry indicated that it would involve encouraging farmers to focus their attention on planting staples such dasheen, sweet potatoes, yams, vegetable and other short-term crops that require 3 months or less before they can be harvested.
The Ministry of Agriculture’s recommendations mirrors that of the recommendations provided by CARDI Representative for Grenada, Agronomist, Reginald Andall.
Andall stated that although there will be a reduction in the number of imported food items, this presents an opportunity to increase demand and consumption of locally produced foods. He also pointed out that this crisis also presents another opportunity to start strategising on ways to preserve and store foods. “A crop like cassava which can be stored when made into farine – the importance of food storage is going to become more evident and so there will be a greater demand now for farmers locally produced staples. which can be stored,” he said.
Focusing more on the planting of crops such as breadfruit can also be considered by farmers. “Breadfruit can also be stored when it is dried. Farmers now can benefit from that and it could also open new business avenues for processors who may want to dry and package breadfruit and have it available for sale. So, overall coming out of this is the greater importance of the agricultural sector as people will become aware that the sector is much more resilient to these negative impacts caused by this virus,” Andall said.
The issue for the urgent need for food security for the region in this time of crisis was also addressed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation’s former Subregional Coordinator for the Caribbean, Dr Lystra Fletcher-Paul.
According to the FAO, Food and feedstock imports account for over 80 % of the food consumed in some countries of the region and as such with the sudden halt in the importation of food items due spread of the coronavirus, will have a significant impact on food security.
Dr Fletcher-Paul in her analysis of the problem has suggested that not only must the various agriculture ministries throughout the region response accordingly but there also needs to be a coordinated effort on the part of farmers, consumers, technicians and the private sector to devise both “short and medium-term, as well as temporary actions” including ensuring that inputs such as seeds, seedlings and fertilisers be made available to farmers in sufficient quantities.
As part of short-term measures, it is also advised that consumers start backyard gardening.