By Orville Williams
Efforts are being intensified to improve food production and ultimately, food security in the country, amid the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Cabinet spokesperson, Melford Nicholas, acknowledged the likelihood of a decrease in food stock, as trade and travel are being reduced to halt the spread of the virus. This, he said, has been recognised by the government and must be addressed by an increase in food production.
“We would see a number of persons showing videos of supermarket shelves being emptied in many countries and as this global pandemic expands, it is certainly going to have an effect on trade. As you know, we have been saying for a good while before, that one of the reasons we want to expand food production in the agricultural sector, is to deal with the whole question of food security.
“We would expect, over the coming weeks [and] months, as the effects of this issue prevail, that there is going to be disruption to the food chain. So, one of the areas that we have been focused on – and the Ministry of Agriculture has been given the mandate – [is] to expand the capacity of food production in the island,” he said.
The government has already announced some measures to assist with food production, including security equipment and subsidised water costs for farmers. Additionally, seedlings are expected to be made available to persons practicing “backyard farming” and importantly, one public sector group has indicated its interest in joining the fight.
“One of the areas that I think the incoming Head of the Defence Force has said [is] that they, too, want to be able to get involved in getting some of their personnel involved in the development of their own farm, so that’s an area that we will see some increase as well.
“I think what we want to do is to ensure that this is a national endeavour, so while there is a plan to expand production on the farm under the Agricultural Development Corporation, while we are encouraging other local small farmers and commercial farmers to get involved in expanding production, we’re encouraging the production of food within home gardens as well.
“I have to say that, over the last two months, we have [also] seen the benefit of our students in the secondary and primary school, getting involved in agricultural production in a manner that is very encouraging,” Nicholas explained.
He also issued another call to the public, to contribute to the cause and engage, where possible, in positive food production. “We want to appeal to persons who have significant tracts of land, even at the back of their yards, to get involved in food production. I believe the Ministry of Agriculture will be issuing seedlings and so on to persons, because we have to be able to have a degree of food security, at least better than we currently have,” Nicholas said.