Monday, August 5, 2013

Caribbean style self sufficiency

Food pricing was a driving issue with the Arab Spring, and it remains an issue for a lot of other countries.

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.


James M Dakin said...

Historically we were the largest producer of oil. And the world's factory. Things change. We have mined most of our soil fertility and replaced it with artifial fertilizer AND we have outsourced local food to the midwest so there is the transportation issue added. Oil shortages will completely change our food situation. If the imploding economy doesn't do it first.

Anonymous said...

Don't comment often as I should. Another excellent post. I come here often and never leave disappointed.

russell1200 said...

James: barge traffic is increasing on the Erie Canal. The Mississippi River water basin, the Great Lakes, and the Upstate New York river/lakes are all interconnected. Soil fertility is an issue, but the Haber process (using natural gas), again, gives us a relative advantage as natural gas is one of our stronger areas with regard to fossil fuel production.

The real issue to my mind is how people will pay for the food. The 19th century famines in Ireland and India did a pretty good job of showing that the market driven economics will cut off supply to those on the economic margins.

russell1200 said...

Thanks Mohave.

James M Dakin said...

Leaving aside issues of past neglect of eastern waterways infrastructure, and whether repairs were/will be made, I was speaking more of the US as a whole. So, you are correct the east will be fine transportation wise. The west I'm not so sure about. I see a divide politically occuring along those very lines- the east lets the west whither, and I'm sure immigration will not be allowed.

russell1200 said...

James: Most of them are relatively easy repairs. I mean they built them in the first place with before steam power was even all that effective. You could dig them out with muscle power.

Its not popular within the genre, but the East Coast doing better then the less populated western states is a possibility. The maps did use to call it the Great American Desert after all.