RADHICA DE SILVA
Ahead of the national budget, agriculture economist Omardath Maharaj says the government must find ways to stop food wastage and to encourage household food production.
Saying the government must redefine National Security to include the maintenance of adequate food supplies, Maharaj said there must be the focus on local food production.
“We continued through the Yard Market, promoted as a family farmers’ market, to promote self-sufficiency in household food production and an inclusive entrepreneurship hub for hand-made products, home-grown foods and other forms of social entrepreneurship,” Maharaj said, adding that this will help families sustain each other.
“We cannot deny the fact that the cost of living and economic hardship is on the rise. It is, therefore, a necessity for policymakers to do more towards preserving food and nutrition security at the household level, protect and strengthen the men and women who work to feed the nation,” he said.
He noted that there must be public awareness and education on food loss and waste.
“When we consume food that was grown locally or at home specifically, we make choices that promote true sustainability – while directly supporting those who are supporting us – farmers, fishers, families, niche market entrepreneurs, local manufacturers and those along the food value chain. Home-grown efforts are also good for the pocket and personal health,” he said.
Noting there was significant wastage in the food and agriculture industry, Maharaj said, “Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations notes that “up to one-third of all food is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people.”
“It is an excess in an age where almost a billion people go hungry and represent a waste of the labour, water, energy, land and other inputs that went into producing that food. There is no room for food loss and waste in this time of crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is a wake-up call to rethink how we produce, handle and waste our food,” he said.
He said while the government excitement on agriculture is welcomed, there must be the focus on families feeding themselves and inclusive social dialogue.
Maharaj has been giving out free breadfruit trees to citizens so that when food shortages come, they will be able to sustain themselves. He has been doing a yard market with his family every weekend and supporting citizens with growing their kitchen yard. He said as worldwide food shortages occur, citizens will be forced to find ways to sustain themselves.