You’ll have to excuse your Eyewitness for not getting too excited by the hype and exhortations coming out of our Agri-Investment Expo bash. Not only has he been there and done that in his own lifetime without a single thing changing – but there’s the deadweight of history staring him in the face. Take the suggestion from the PM of Montserrat, that there’s gotta be a commitment to increasing shipping linkages – by sea and air – to get the food from where it’s produced to where it’s consumed.
Well…hello!! Hasn’t this been the challenge from the beginning of time? Just this morning, your Eyewitness had cause to look up a meeting on the Legislative Council of Wednesday, 28th September, 1932. And there it was, the Honourable FJ Seaford – a bastion of the colonial order, and Bookers to boot – had moved a motion: “Whereas it is desirable that there should be freer and fuller exchange of domestic produce between this Colony, British Honduras and the British West Indian Colonies…”. And proposing how that could be done. Yet…!
Do we really need to be told that if one country’s producing oranges cheaply, other member states ought to buy from them and move on to producing something else?? Isn’t this the basis of what Adam Smith wrote about in 1776 in his “Wealth of Nations”? Comparative advantage and all that? And launched the free trade movement?? Isn’t this what launched CARIFTA in 1968 and Caricom in 1973?? The question that needs to be answered is: why did those initiatives fail??
And it’s only after we answer that question honestly might we POSSIBLY make some progress. And that answer is that leaders of Caricom have mostly been in love with the sound of their own voices – they just live to spew hot air!! The problem with all this talk is, no one wants to accept that when we complain about our food bill of US$6 billion (and counting), it’s not only about us importing FOOD from foreign to feed foreigners – but mostly to feed ourselves!! We still see foreign food as superior to our own!!
Do you know how much (to pick one product) spinach we import, instead of serving local bhagee/callaloo?? Just look into the food basket of any islander or Guyanese and you’ll see that, rather than the colonial taste petering out, it’s intensified!! Isn’t it a proven scientific fact that sweet potatoes are a much better food that Irish potatoes from a health standpoint? Yet we import the latter by shiploads, while sweet potatoes are kicked to the curb.
Mia Mottley asked a good question: Why is it we don’t serve foreign tourists our local foods?? Isn’t that why they pay good money to visit??
Your Eyewitness was a bit miffed to learn we’d just ploughed under a whole field of experimental sugar cane cultivars – to make way for housing!! We’re talking fat about food production, yet, here we are, using alluvial land that’s been irrigated and drained for agriculture through the blood, sweat and tears of our foreparents for housing!! How many other areas in the world can boast about this type of agriculturally-suitable land?? Isn’t the problem in so many areas like California, that their ground water’s running out??
But that’s just the general problem – exacerbated, when we’ve agreed that we ought to be moving to higher ground for our housing!! The specific problem is: how do we replicate those experimental cane cultivars to ensure that our production costs won’t keep on rising? This, of course, is because we constantly produce new stocks that can deliver more sucrose, while becoming hardier and less susceptible to diseases.
Do we really want to produce SOME sugar?
Your Eyewitness is pleased that T&T’s Keith Rowley came to Guyana to beard the (GCCI) lions, who’ve been roaring at him about his trade policies. But he’s confused they growled at VP Jagdeo for suggesting an MoU – before even seeing its contents!!