OECS — Arguing that a society unable to feed itself is a civilization that ultimately is doomed to decay, OECS Director General, Doctor Didacus Jules, today made an impassioned plea for the restoration of agriculture to its productive pride of place in the sub region’s economy.
Jules was addressing the Inaugural Council of Agriculture Ministers Meeting in Saint Vincent.
He told his audience that such is the fiction of globalization that people have come to internalize and believe that increasing importation of foreign goods signals modernization.
“So crispies and cornflakes at the breakfast table which formerly was laden with arrowroot and banana bread is seen as modernizing progress,” Jules asserted.
However he warned that today countries are waking up to the reality that the world is facing a multifaceted food crisis in which imported processed food has created unacceptable levels of dependence, exacerbated a health and nutrition crisis and has denuded rural communities of jobs and dignity.
“Food consciousness is rising and even in the developed economies, people are increasingly making more intelligent food choices: questioning nutritional values, seeking organically grown food, rejecting highly processed food and asserting the principle of fair trade over free trade,” Jules said.
In this regard he called on the OECS to take back its market and re-assume responsibility for feeding itself.
“ The disturbing reality is that we have become net food importing countries with some countries importing in 2011 as high as 95% of their food and with the lowest importation in the OECS standing at an unacceptable 55%,” he disclosed.
At the same time he OECS Director General noted that the challenge of restoring food security in the OECS has become more exciting with the inclusion of Martinique which recently joined the OECS as the newest Associate Member.
According to Jules, this has expanded he OECS market size by a population of over 400,000, soon to be followed by Guadeloupe; then further afield within the wider CARICOM region and beyond.
“ With the inclusion of our French sisters, the market potential becomes significantly greater and more lucrative but the bar is also raised exponentially as entry in this market will require production to exacting European standards,” he said.