– Agri Minister pleads on World Food Day
As Guyana celebrated World Food Day yesterday, calls were made to local leaders to ease importation of food from extra-regional sources.
Not only will easing of food importation restore food security of the region, but it will encourage locals to eat more nutritious foods that are grown here, he said..
According to Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, CARICOM region spends more than US$3 billion in extra regional food imports, depriving “our farmers and food processors of a commensurate amount of benefits.”
In his message for World Food Day, Persaud noted that Guyana is also celebrating the first anniversary since the commissioning of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) office in Guyana.
“We are sincerely appreciative of this development not least in light of the fact that the FAO has been closing offices in several parts of the world to reduce costs. This decision, no doubt, reflects the UN body’s recognition of Guyana’s agricultural success and the country’s vast potential in contributing towards the region’s food security.
Yesterday’s theme, “Achieving Food Security in Times of Crisis”, “is appropriate given the need to raise global awareness of the plight facing the world’s poorest people faced with hunger and malnutrition,” the Minister said.
“As the FAO’s recent State of Food Insecurity Report highlighted, even before the food crisis and the economic crisis, the number of hungry people had been increasing slowly but steadily. With the financial crisis, which came on the back of a severe food price crisis, the number of undernourished people has now surpassed the one billion mark.”
Guyana, the Minister assured, has achieved food security and the agriculture sector has acted as an important buffer against the decline in incomes that followed the financial crisis.
With Climate Change posing additional challenges to agricultural production, it is even more important for investment in agriculture to be kept up and not follow the declining trend that was witnessed over recent decades and eventually led to the food price crisis.
“For us in Guyana, such an approach will be consistent with our theme during Agriculture Month of “Building A New Agriculture Sector Along A Low Carbon Path”. We have experienced widespread impacts of climate change including extreme weather events, increased temperature and sea-level rise.
“We have been warned, through countless scientific studies, that continuing with unchecked activities that damage the environment will result in massive food shortages. Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Increased temperatures will reduce yields of desirable crops while encouraging weed and pest proliferation.”
According to the Minister, Guyana has taken the lead in formulating an approach, the Low-Carbon Development Strategy, which will positively impact on the world’s climate for the benefit of all humanity and provide for key investments to attend to national and regional food security demands.
“Climate change poses huge challenges to food security efforts. Hence, any activity that supports agricultural adaptation also enhances food security. I wish to urge that our reflection on the theme points us not only to an issue of “food security” but also one of “food nutrition security”.
According to the Minister, regional health institutions have been advising of the decline in the quality of the foods people consumed. There are growing problems of obesity among both children and adults arising from poor diets.
“ Micronutrient deficiencies in children and other vulnerable groups like pregnant and lactating women need to be addressed,” he said.
“It is my opinion that such problems have arisen in the Caribbean region because we, as a people, have moved away from our traditional nutritious foods and have embraced a lifestyle, including the foods, subtly suggested to us through a blitz of TV advertising.
“If the policy makers and people of our region return to the foods that we can produce ourselves, regional food security and food nutrition security could once more be restored.”
He stressed that Guyana stands ready to play its part in ensuring that the world can achieve food security in times of crises.
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