Sunday, February 24, 2013

Letter: Food production ministry focused on eating local, eating healthy

The Express newspaper missed the point in its editorial on Friday, February 22, 2013 under the heading LIP-SERVICE MANILY FOR EATING LOCAL in which it is highly critical of a campaign by the Ministry of Food Production aimed at getting citizens to eat locally grown foods available at their neighbourhood markets. 
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The focus of the year-long campaign is to encourage citizens to eat local and to eat healthy. One important part of the campaign is to highlight the nutritional and health benefits of eating local. 

An integral part of the campaign, for example, is to explain the food value of local fruits and vegetables to create an awareness, and by extension a healthier society.

However the Express focuses on the negatives without seeing the positive value of such a campaign, which includes much more than just an advertising slogan.

It is not, as the editorial suggests, based on “assumptions that ordinary people do not know what they like to eat and are incapable of calculating what their budgets can afford.” On the contrary, it is aimed to directing people to the right food choices and showing why.

Part of the mandate of the food production ministry is to grow local and encourage consumption of local, which redounds to the benefit of everyone. If people change their lifestyles and eating habit we become a healthier nation. And supporting the local agriculture sector generates income for the farming community as well as the state.

The Express correctly points to the disdain for agriculture and effective planning by the previous administration.

The Manning PNM administration shut down Caroni (1975) Limited based on political spite, without ever having a clear plan for agriculture and food production. 

That’s why from the date of the shutdown in 2003, as acknowledged by the Express, to 2010 when the PNM lost power, the Manning government had done nothing to advance the cause of food production that it promised when it shut down an industry that served tens of thousands and generated millions in revenue for the state.

Much of the present administration’s energy is devoted to correcting what was wrong and this campaign is one such example aimed at education, information and creating food security without which no state can be considered truly independent. 

There are constraints to expansion of food production, which include proper environmental management and allocation of resources. There is indeed a bureaucratic maze that must be navigated before substantial change can come. 
However the present minister in charge of food production, Devant Maharaj, is not content to wait to remove all obstacles. 

He has acknowledged them and while everyone is working to clear the hurdles the minister is developing a mechanism to encourage public awareness of the need to grow food locally, save money and reduce Trinidad and Tobago’s $4 billion per annum food import bill. 

This campaign is multifaceted and, will likely get those disenchanted with making the lands productive come back to food production. 

If the Express does an analysis of the message it would have to acknowledge that it is much more than lip service and truly an effort to grow more, eat healthy and cut costs. 

That in itself is a mammoth undertaking and a success story.

Nicholas Morris | Adviser to the Minister of Food Production

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai