Address by Hon. Ignatius Jean on the Occasion of World Food Day, October 16, 2005
Home Up Address by Hon. Ignatius Jean on the Occasion of World Food Day, October 16, 2005 WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY JUNE 5TH 2003




Address delivered by Hon. Ignatius Jean Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, on the Occasion of World Food Day, October 16, 2005


Hunger and Food Security:

Adequate food is essential for an active and healthy life. Hunger affects the well-being of people, nations and the world. To be food-secure means that we must always be able to get the appropriate foods we need for a healthy lifestyle. Food security implies availability, accessibility, and proper use of food. For many of the undernourished people of the world, most of them living in rural areas, access to food is assured only if they produce the food themselves or if they have sufficient money to afford and buy it.

In St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean there is a significant imbalance in what we grow and what we eat. Much of what we eat comes from imported foods, leading to a US$3 billion food import bill. Research carried out by the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI) indicate that a great proportion of the imported foods we consume indeed contribute to the many illnesses and diseases affecting our peoples and development.

Much of the earnings we obtain from exports eventually end up in treating such illnesses and diseases, thus resulting in an unsustainable health care system and dysfunctional lifestyles. The time has come for us to recognize and appreciate the fresh and healthy foods produced by our local farmers and fishers. The popular refrain “grow what you eat, and eat what you grow” is certainly relevant.


This year the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations celebrates its 60th anniversary and the 25th anniversary of World Food Day. World Food Day affords us an opportunity to focus our attention on food security, and its interaction with hunger and environmental degradation. It also allows us the opportunity to examine the true worth of agriculture, fisheries and forestry and their role in the reduction of poverty and hunger and the sustainability of human development.


The theme for this year’s celebration is “Agriculture and Intercultural Dialogue”. This theme explores the contribution of different cultures to world agriculture and argues that sincere intercultural dialogue is a precondition for progress against hunger and environmental degradation.


St. Lucia is replete with examples of intercultural dialogue in agriculture. Improved breeds of livestock as well as improved species of plants have been imported from various countries and are now widely used in local farming. Horses and cattle were introduced with the advent of the Europeans and coffee was introduced from Africa; cocoa and maize from Central and South America; Bananas, breadfruit and coconut from the Far East. The richness of our dishes is a perfect manifestation of the “Potpouri” of cultures that have made us who we are today.


More recently, we’ve had a constant stream of visiting agricultural experts from the Caribbean, U.S.A., Canada, France, the UK, China, Japan, Cuba and Latin America. Our experts have also been trained in these countries, as well as elsewhere. Institutions such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and FAO at the international level, and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) at the regional level, also facilitate intercultural dialogue in agriculture, among others, such as the many regional learning institutions (University of the West Indies, University of Guyana, Guyana School of Agriculture, ECIAF in Trinidad etc).


St. Lucia also benefits from the peaceful co-existence of descendants from various cultures such as the African, Asian, Indigenous peoples (Caribs and Arawaks) Arabs and Europeans. Foods typical of individual groups are now increasingly produced and consumed by just about everyone. For example, the Asian curries, roti and dalpuri, and the Native Indian cassava are well known and have almost become traditional.


One of the most important forms of intercultural dialogue, and probably the one that poses the greatest challenge to us as a developing country, is world trade. Experts contend that both opportunities and threats exist in the present system of World Trade, but so far, for developing countries the threats appear to be more evident. Due to our special circumstances our farmers are finding it difficult to compete in international markets while subsidized produce from industrialized countries is sold at, or below production costs in our countries.


In this regard, we firmly and resolutely support the view that further and much dialogue is required for the development of a fairer trading system, and I dare say, that this is a pre-requisite for a more peaceful, just and democratic world. This dialogue is essential to minimize, if not eliminate, the apparently consistent exploitation of the vulnerabilities of developing countries, such as St. Lucia and the wider Caribbean. Similarly, we believe that it is dialogue that will bring about a win-win situation on the review of the trading regime for bananas in Europe. Even more importantly, we believe that it is continuous dialogue that is also required to effectively manage and combat the negative impacts of globalization and trade liberalization.


At this juncture, I seize this opportunity to wish all our diligent and dignified farmers, fishers, foresters and agriculturists in general a productive World Food Day 2005. To all our beloved citizens and visitors, I wish you a fun-filled day, as you join the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and its Staff, our farmers and fishers and the international community in celebrating World Food Day 2005. Continue to support and promote local agriculture. It’s our future!!

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