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Time to eat what we grow, grow what we eat

Mar 3, 2011, 11:06 AM

The report that there was a meeting involving importers of basic commodities in the country recently to bring down costs is most welcomed, but we do not think that is actually a durable solution.

The Gambia as a country should do all it takes to find a lasting solution for good, as increased food prices could aggravate poverty in the country.

Lately, the prices of many commodities have surged exponentially to a point where it threatens to shoot household budgets over the roof.

There is no doubt that the soaring food and energy prices now pose a threat to the fledgling impetus in the recovery of the world economy.

Just in January, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation announced that its food price index for December hit an all-time high, and the World Bank’s food price index increased by 15 per cent between October 2010 and January 2011.

Another food crisis appears imminent. Finance ministers from the Group of 20 (G20) leading economies met in Paris recently to discuss the food crisis, but failed to devise a plan to address this urgent issue. How refreshing the peak reached in 2008!

One cogent reality is that Africa is the most vulnerable, because there is already widespread hunger, and because the continent has been bypassed by the Green Revolution.

The yield of 1.1 tonnes per hectare in tropical Africa is less than a third of the yields achieved in Asia and Latin America. But the severity of the impact will be greatest in the net food importing countries, such as The Gambia.

Just think of the income of the pensioner population in this country. Sad though, but it’s next to nothing. They will be much more affected by what is happening now.

To cope with escalating food prices, The Gambia has to increase domestic food production and substitute local foodstuffs for the increasingly costly imported items.

Farmers have to try to expand production, because the jump in the cost of imported food will increase the demand for local food.

Increased production could save foreign exchange, generate employment and improve rural development.

We hope that the agricultural community will rise to the challenge.

“The past may be past, the present we grapple with, but the future we can attempt to change.”