Devon Dick | Be an ambassador for Eat Jamaican campaign
Recently, The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) participated in congregational worship at the Boulevard Baptist Church to mark the proclamation of the Eat Jamaican Campaign which was launched on November 25, 2003 and observed every year on the 25th of November. On that occasion Senator Norman Grant, president of the JAS, in addition to outlining the benefits of the effort, asked me to serve as an ambassador for the Eat Jamaican Campaign. It was a pleasure because my family's eating habits support a Jamaican diet.
The Eat Jamaican Campaign is important for sustainable food security, integrated rural development and broad-based economic development. The aim of the effort is to get greater consumption of Jamaican agricultural produce which will spur increased local food production. Other spin-offs included greater appreciation of the farmer; repositioning Jamaica as an agricultural society; and greater awareness of the struggles and survival of this sector.
The 15 years of this Eat Jamaican campaign has had significant accomplishments for the 250,000 farmers and fisher folk who are engaged in this project. The Eat Jamaican Campaign, according to Norman Grant, has saved the economy some $70 billion through the reduction of food imports; increased domestic production from 491,000 tonnes in 2003 to 668,000 tonnes in 2016 a 38 per cent increase. The estimates are that the agricultural sector's contribution to the Gross Domestic Production (GDP) has moved from 7 per cent to 20 per cent. Impressive indeed.
The good news is that the country is now self-sufficient in eggs, poultry, pork and Irish potato. Even the spike in demand for eggs, poultry and ham over the Christmas Season can be adequately met by our farmers. Egg production for 2017 will see a 10 per cent increase over last year.
There is nothing wrong with appreciating and tasting foreign foods. However, it is not healthy to depend solely, or largely, on foreign staples to feed our population. What happens when there is an outbreak of disease overseas and getting access to foreign food becomes a problem? This is not a hypothetical situation because recently there was a problem with Brazilian corned beef. Things such as mad cow disease can be imported. Foreign food should just be for times when we want international cuisine and for special occasions, but cannot be for our daily bread.
This vision of 'grow what you eat and eat what you grow' is a wonderful way forward. It deserves the support of consumers, policymakers and farmers. The Jamaican brand is strong. It has worldwide appeal and we must display confidence in our local foodstuff.
There needs to be co-operation between the JAS and other stakeholders, including those who are fighting against obesity and excessive consumption of junk food. We need to support the food festivals and make every parish host a food festival.
Not many persons realise that our cuisine is greatly appreciated and that Enid Donaldson's recipe book is a best-selling book. The recipe book does better than any history book, no matter how renowned the author be.
Thankfully, there are linkages between the agricultural sector and tourism interests. Many hotels in Jamaica, including those of the Jewel brand, Hilton, Sandals, Moon Palace, etc have a Jamaican corner or Jamaican restaurant where guests can sample real Jamaican dishes. These dishes are also a favourite with returning residents and locals. Secrets Wild Orchid Resort & Spa has cooking classes twice a week for the guests. We need more hotels to have cooking classes to teach our guests how to prepare Jamaican dishes.
It is not only a chosen few who should be ambassadors for the Eat Jamaican campaign, but all Jamaicans should be proud ambassadors for the Eat Jamaican Campaign.
So mek we eat Jamaican and reap a bellyful of benefits for our country.
- Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback to columns@ gleanerjm.com