CASE students reject local foods
PRESIDENT OF the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), Dr Derrick Deslandes, has lamented that students at the Passley Gardens, Portland institution have rejected local foods and are consuming the imported and fast-food options instead.
“Rice has become a staple in the Jamaican diet for the past couple of decades. Right now, if I cook rice and chicken every single day at CASE, that’s what the students want. They don’t want to hear about nuh banana. We pushing plantain now on the menu and every day we say this is what we have, rice costs money and we don’t have any money, so you have to eat banana and plantain and whatever else is produced on the farm,” Deslandes stated.
“We have been trying do that but we recognise how much of the food is wasted behind the dormitory because they don’t want to eat it and you see them going to fast-food places to buy chicken. So we have a challenge and if you don’t get the market right, you won’t have a sector,” Deslandes told the recent Agri-Expo launch at JP Farms in St Mary.
Part of the problem, according to Deslandes, is that Jamaica’s cultural practices have not kept pace with current realities.
“As a country we are food insecure as productivity factors continue to plague us and have left us in a position where we simply can’t compete with imports. It is not that we can’t feed ourselves but it is our cultural practices. We focus a lot on banana but the market has gone to banana chips. We focus a lot on potatoes but the market has shifted to potato chips and fries,” he observed.
According to Deslandes, it is vital that the conditions are created to allow the agricultural sector to come into its own. However, with most of the raw material for agro-processing being imported, he said that is one of the first areas the country needs to start addressing in a serious way.
“In 2008 when we couldn’t get rice out of Guyana, we had to ask CARICOM to waive the CET (common external tariff) to allow us to facilitate rice imports out of Ethiopia and other African States. Guyana decided that because of the food crisis that the world was having, they were not going to export rice and every other country did the same thing. In a sense, the same thing is happening with Ukraine in respect of grains and if India used to export grain, they are holding on to that grain and (for) Brazil it’s the same thing,” he reasoned.
“Without the infusion of technology in the Jamaican agricultural space, we are going to continue struggling as we are struggling and we are going to lose market,” he warned.
Deslandes called for the involvement of local research institutions such as Bodles Research Station, The University of the West Indies, Mona; CASE, University of Technology and Northern Caribbean University, and that the research development out of these institutions be channels to farmers via agencies such as the Rural Agricultural Development Authority and others.