Jun 23, 2022 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Guyanese have been hearing about Food Security almost from the first day that they were able to understand a word of English. It is this same Food Security that came in for much talking up during the recent Investor Agri Expo in Guyana that was attended by regional heads of government. Every leader present had his or her say, felt good about themselves, made a good impression, and then the curtain came down.
Now we wonder what will follow next relative to delivery on commitments made, and fulfillment of promises and the big visions articulated. Everybody has to eat to exist, but the reality is that too many in this country and the wider region do not live with, or enjoy, this thing bandied about by politicians called Food Security. The reality is that in societies that have a history of, and were built on, agricultural activities too many have to do without food on a daily basis; they live in a state of food insecurity. It could be in the quantity of food that they and their families have before them to partake of, or the quality of what is there, and which represents all that they can manage.
This is worrying, particularly in the instance of Guyana, which has so much rich agricultural lands. It is mystifying that this country has a $6 billion food import bill, and that staples such as ground provisions, fruits and vegetables, and greens can be so expensive, as to be out of the reach of those on the lower end of the economic ladder. As a nation, we have been talking boldly about Food Security in some from or the other since the days of Burnham, and we are still in the same shaky boat, with lack of cooperation, foreign tastes, and fighting at the regional level over who is monopolising certain areas and the need to level the food playing field.
One of the more recent developments concerned some give on tariffs between Guyana and Trinidad. Openness, access, and mutual movement have all been applauded, so there is waiting to see how far this goes, and how much it means for both societies. Trinidad’s Prime Minister spoke of his readiness to lead with transportation to assist in eliminating barriers and bottlenecks that interfere with improved Food Security results. We may, after all this talking and all this time, see some limited progress to make affordable food supplies accessible by more regional citizens.
The fact that citizens on the bottom end of the scale have to skip a meal, or partake of a lesser quality of food (due to finances), is both an insult and an embarrassment. In the case of Guyana, with all of its land and its plentiful newfound oil riches, the embarrassment is more pronounced. We can make loud and pretty speeches about the fastest growing, and largest, GDP numbers in the world, but if our poor people can’t get enough to eat on a daily basis, then we are not making fools of them, but of ourselves.
National leaders must stop playing politics, and going about their visions and missions in a piecemeal, haphazard manner. There has to be a broad strategic thrust that is comprehensive and inclusive, if we are going to make good on this promise of Food Security. Instead of a hop, skip, and a jump approach, Guyana’s leaders should challenge experts in the agriculture field to come up with a fully fleshed out programme that has substance and which accelerates plans and moves to achieve this elusive national and regional Food Security that currently has its moment under the sun.
Instead of politicking, grandstanding, and showboating, our leaders must come up with what has as its core features, a solid structure, a scheme of incentives, easy land allocation, people who know what they are doing, emergency backup, and a ready outlet for the outcome of the efforts of our farmers. With all the rich talk of infrastructure and GDP and being the next Dubai, we must come down to earth and take stock. No citizen should be hungry in this society. No child should want for food. And no family should be without basics.
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