As Cost of Importing Food Soars, Jamaica Turns to the Earth
Damian Cave, New York Times, 3 August 2013
Across the Caribbean, food imports have become a budget-busting problem, prompting one of the world’s most fertile regions to reclaim its agricultural past. But instead of turning to big agribusinesses, officials are recruiting everyone they can to combat the cost of imports, which have roughly doubled in price over the past decade. In Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas and elsewhere, local farm-to-table production is not a restaurant sales pitch; it is a government motto.
“We’re in a food crisis,” said Hilson Baptiste, the agriculture minister of Antigua and Barbuda... “Every country is concerned about it. How can we produce our own? How can we feed our own?”
Jamaica started earlier than most. A decade ago, the government unveiled a national food security campaign with the slogan “grow what we eat, eat what we grow.” Grocery stores now identify local produce with large stickers and prominent displays.
Members of rival political parties have also been mostly unified in support of expanding agriculture by experimental means; Jamaica is now one of several countries that have given out thousands of seed kits to encourage backyard farming.
Schools are heavily involved in the effort: 400 in Jamaica now feature gardens maintained by students and teachers. In Antigua and Barbuda, students are now sent out regularly on planting missions, adding thousands of avocado, orange, breadfruit and mango trees to the islands, but in Jamaica, gardening and cooking are often part of every school day.
Jamaica is showing a lot more sense than a lot of other countries in this regard. The United States has been a net exporter throughout its existence, so it has never been much of an issue here, and is one reason that the United States has a buffer against a lot of the popular collapse theories. Or at least the theories that don't involve overnight catastrophes.
But a country that is not self sufficient in food finds itself in a much more precarious position in a more "gentle" decline. Thus the Arab oil producers interest in nuclear power plants to desalinate sea water.