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Food import reality

Monday, November 13, 2017

It’s one thing for the State to criticise the demand for imported food and urge citizens to buy local, it’s another to demonstrate the ability and capacity to feed the need at home. This country spent over $32 billion dollars in food imports in 5 years, but consecutive administrations have failed to facilitate a sustainable framework to transition consumers to local substitutes for some of the most basic items.

Rice, flour, cheese and meat are among the items on the criticised food import bill, and while it’s easy and fair to harp on the volume of alcohol and the amounts being spent of “luxury” goods, to do so in isolation misses a serious element of the equation. We spend a lot of time talking about token initiatives like the production of local cassava flour for bread, yet the stark reality is that there is no affordable, large-scale local substitute for imported wheat which supplies the flour for the roti, bake, doubles, pies and bread we eat every day. Local rice farming has also not yet proven to be viable. The lack of education about what constitutes local is another issue as many consumers are unaware that a large percentage of domestic brands package items which are derived from imported raw materials, again contributing to that food import bill. If we are meant to wean ourselves off imported foods, the short, medium and long terms prospects for the production of local alternatives are nowhere in sight.

Equal attention please

Since a whistle was blown at Petrotrin signalling the possibility of inter-company collusion in the apparent over-reporting of oil and gas production by a private company, A&V appears to have suffered a precipitous decline in its output. As reported in the Sunday Guardian, based on energy production figures supplied to Cabinet, the leaseholder is now producing just 1,700 barrels a day. This means that from one month to the next, its production slumped by almost 3,300 barrels. For any business, such a dramatic decline in output would call for the most serious scrutiny. A&V’s issues, however, are not those of the average private sector company. Its product is being consumed by a State entity whose bills are footed by taxpayers. It is with growing dismay that we note the glaring disparity in the treatment given to a ‘construction cartel’ complete with ageing threats to charge an opposition MP and the current administration’s own response to issues arising over the last few months. The existence of cooperation between companies to secure large state construction contracts is certainly worthy of government attention, but equally important is a seemingly rigged process likely to leave taxpayers footing a hefty bill. Perhaps it should be given the same attention on the same kind of political platforms, where the volume is always loudest.

PTSC progress

Traffic in this country can be horrendous. Christmas makes it worse. Getting to a mall whether you intend to spend money, window shop or just relax, can be a nightmare. The PTSCs addition of shopping centres to routes in San Fernando every 90 minutes is a practical and welcome move. Now if only we could get the rest of the public transportation system functioning efficiently.


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