Dr. Harris said the time has passed when an economy – which is built and propelled predominantly by external factors – was sufficient to sustain financial and economic sustainability and viability.
“We must recognize that we need to propel the economy internally too. We need an internal and indigenous propeller of growth. Agriculture will propel activity within our country and bring people from periphery into the mainstream of economic life.”
He said that owing to the availability of land “and the comparative advantage which it gives us”, a move into large-scale agriculture can benefit the federation and significantly reduce the impact of three factors which include food security and food nutrition.
“FAO predicts the global population will grow from 6 billion plus to 9 plus billion in 2050. A 70% increase in production is required to meet a 50% growth in population. But in reality, with less land available worldwide for primary production due to land transfers into alternative energy and the negative impact of climate change there is a serious global challenge for food security.”
Dr. Harris also made mention of the state of affairs relative to poverty alleviation, noting that “a millennium development goal is to halve poverty by 2015. Our reality is that 23.7% of the population on St Kitts is poor. 15.9% poor in Nevis. Worldwide the goal seems illusive.”
The Global food index, according to Harris, has registered “dramatic increases in the cost of living with resultant consequences for the poor and net food importing countries. Between October 2010 and February 2011, the global food index had increased by 15%. The FAO predicts that food prices will remain high for the foreseeable future.”
The Agriculture Minister said the stark reality is that the price of food is increasing and the quantity of imports is increasing. He noted however that is agriculture were to be made more competitive by being given the necessary resources, the issues outlined above can be addressed at least in part.