Food reserves in the Caribbean

We have been studying how to set up a food reserve in the Eastern Caribbean. John spent two weeks in May, at the invitation of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), at its headquarters in St. Lucia.

The OECS brings together 10 small island states from the British Virgin Islands in the north to Grenada in the south. They are very vulnerable to extreme weather events such as hurricanes which can destroy growing crops. The islands import a considerable quantity of basic food staples, especially rice and wheat. When the price of these commodities escalates on the world market, the islands are faced with very high food import bills. Food can become unaffordable.

John examined what could be done to reduce the vulnerability of the islands to these risks to a continuous supply of food at affordable prices. He explored the possibility of setting up a regional food reserve, under the aegis of the OECS. The staff of the OECS provided him with a great deal of relevant information on food supply and food security. They prepared some 20 meetings within St. Lucia in advance of his arrival, with government departments, food processors, supermarkets, food importers and farmers’ cooperatives. John spoke by Zoom to government officials on the other member islands.

All in all, the idea of a regional food reserve to insure the region against the risks to its food security, was well received by the various stakeholders. Of course, the devil lies in the detail. To be self-sustaining and to work efficiently, a food reserve has to be thoroughly thought through.

John wrote up his report during June and the OECS is now reviewing it.

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