Agriculture Minister Alfred Prospere, acknowledging that vulnerable people would suffer the most from the cost of living increases, has indicated that backyard gardens can assist them in meeting their food needs.
He explained that food security had become a global issue due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war, and the Saint Lucia government was putting a strategy in place to address the problem.
“One of the things we need to encourage is to see that they introduce the whole backyard garden concept where we can provide the seedlings to them at a low cost and at the same time they can grow some of the things that they eat right there in the backyard,” the Minister said regarding vulnerable citizens.
“We must be careful how we do it because we have our commercial farmers – we don’t want to make them think that they are competing with an introduction of backyard gardens,” he told reporters this week.
“That may make it difficult for them to sell their produce, knowing that is what they depend on,” Prospere explained.
He also observed that the dry spell would impact food security.
According to the Minister, many slope farmers will not be able to produce food because of the low rainfall Saint Lucia is experiencing currently.
In this regard, he spoke of the need to take food security seriously.
“We must ensure that we educate, sensitise our stakeholders in the agriculture as to what they can do and not do to ensure that we remain self-sufficient,” Prospere stated.
In addition, he acknowledged that the food import bill is high.
And the Minister observed that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is looking at a 25 percent reduction by 2025.
“I think the food import bill in the Caribbean is in the billions,” Prospere asserted.
However, he expressed that the region can grow much of what it imports.
In the case of Saint Lucia, he explained that’s the objective of the seven crops programme targetting produce that can grow locally and which the Island does not have to import in large quantities.
“I believe if we can focus on that, we will be able to reduce our food import bill significantly,” Prospere told reporters.