Dr. Harris, while speaking with MiyVue.com, indicated that food security is “a major major matter” noting that according to the World Bank, with the world’s population expected to increase from 6.3 billion to about 9.2 billion by 2015, food production would have to increase by 70 percent if food security needs are to be met.
He said this projection comes at a time when additional land across the world is being used for production or harnessing of alternative energy and as a result, and in an attempt to achieve food security or in an attempt to make further strides towards food security, the “archaic” fashion in which agriculture is done in the Federation, must be revamped and modernised.
“Our cabbages, our pumpkin, our tomatoes, our potatoes, all of those are areas in which we still have significant gaps between what the national demand is and the national production is. How do you change this. We have to change this by moving – by and large – by moving the production to on where you are able to control most of the essential elements. How do you control that? You do that largely through what we call protected agriculture. So you move into your greenhouses…so that on the same land you can have prolonged yield and you can have greater yield so you are increasing the productivity and increasing the production from the same quantity of land.
“And that is really where the country needs to go. The country needs now to begin to make the investment or else we would be continuing to do agriculture in the traditional way. How come a country that boasts of the need to curtail the food import bill yet we still don’t have the bulk of our farmers with their greenhouses and the water on their land. So we have to do agriculture a new way and an improved way to achieve the benefits which will accrue to us and the benefits are many: Employment, food security, reduction in food import bill, healthier lifestyles through more nutritional products and products that are being produced under much more satisfying circumstances etc.”
The Agriculture Minister explained to this media house that the road to food security is a challenging and long one, noting that if the necessary progress is to be made, funding must be made available and dispersed in a timely manner.
“We have some distance to go and the distance required to be traveled, require and increased inflow of investment, particularly investment in technology and concessional financing in the first instance to allow the farmers the wherewithal to make these kinds of transformation in their farms. This is where a Sugar Industry Diversification Fund (SIDF) should have been doing much more than it is doing because this is a fund set up specifically to assist with diversification efforts after sugar and six years after the sugar industry closed, we have not made the kind of significant steps which we really ought to.
“And so I think we have to ensure that the commitments the SIDF has made, are followed through and they don’t be, as it were promises because promises alone will not work. The promises have to materialise and have to materialise quickly in terms of the sector being able to draw down on the funds.
MiyVue.com understands from Dr. Harris that greenhouses and water management systems project proposals have been submitted to the SIDF for which funding is being sought, “and we haven’t yet had the funds released and until those things are being done, the agricultural sector will continue to be…outmoded in terms of the operations and we therefore will not be advancing in the way we need to make consistent advances.”