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Edwards: Report reveals need to focus more attention on food security

A recent survey that shows that one in four Bahamians are eating less meals since the onset of high inflation demonstrates the serious level of attention that is needed on the issue of food security in The Bahamas, Chair of the Organization of Responsible Governance’s (ORG) Economic Development Committee Hubert Edwards said yesterday.

The Nassau Guardian reported the results of the Caribbean Food Security and Livelihood Survey, conducted by the United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP), earlier this week which indicated that of the 734 Bahamians surveyed in February and August this year, 204 said they were worried they would not have enough food to eat.

“The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the country’s food security infrastructure and the survey provides anecdotal evidence that matters such as feeding self, expanding local agricultural output and employing technology to secure less expensive output continue to be urgent policy issues,” Edwards said.

“There are aspects of the information, as it currently stands, where great care should be applied in its interpretation. Despite this, it becomes readily obvious that the sample of persons responding to the survey are likely to fall in vulnerable segments or lower social-economic groupings.”

In a social media post yesterday, Prime Minister Philip Davis addressed the struggles Bahamians appear to be facing regarding historically high inflation.

“The cost of living has been too high in The Bahamas for a long time, so adding a global inflation crisis that is driving up prices across the board means it’s harder than ever for Bahamians to pay their bills. We are helping Bahamians cope with the crisis in a number of ways: We have lowered the customs duty on many food items. Eggs, chicken, flour, cheese, and a range of healthy vegetables have now had their customs duties decreased significantly or are completely duty-free. We’re hiring new price control enforcers. We’re supporting church feeding programs that reach so many. We’re spending a lot more on social assistance than the country did in 2019, before Dorian and COVID,” he said.

“We don’t just want to help Bahamians through today’s crisis, we want to reduce our dependence on food imports dramatically, so we never find ourselves in this position again. That’s why we’re making a historic investment in agriculture and food security. We need to grow more of what we eat here at home. If we do that, we’re going to pay less for our food, we’re going to eat healthier, and we’re going to create a lot of new opportunities. We have some really innovative programs that can help Bahamian entrepreneurs understand the enormous potential in agriculture and fishing, provide concessions and tax breaks, and offer technical support, too.”

Edwards said yesterday that food security is a national security matter that goes beyond simply having food to eat.

“The outputs from the survey suggest that the persons sampled are displaying very pronounced characteristics of being food insecure. Food security requires, amongst other elements, for there to be food availability, having sufficient quantity of appropriate food available; accessibility, which includes purchasing power; and utilization, which includes adequate nutritious dietary intake,” he said.

“It is clear from the survey that these three important elements are being negatively impacted. In addition to persons going without food, the findings showed that those who responded were eating a narrow range of food, unable to eat healthy and nutritious food, and while there may also be adverse implications here, eating less than desired. Coupled with the reported coping strategies – reducing expenditure on non-food items such as health and education and using savings to meet food needs – these matters bring to the fore important social, economic, and human capacity issues that should attract official attention, if not already known.”

Successive administrations have vowed to address food insecurity in The Bahamas by investing more in agriculture and food production.

Still each year, The Bahamas’ food import bill exceeds $1 billion.

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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