Although the Agriculture, Health and the Nutrition sectors all seek to improve human well being, Agriculture is not often positioned as a tool to address nutrition and health challenges.
With moves by Consolidated Foods Ltd. to work with its registered farmers to strengthen this link, Mrs. Lisa Hunt-Mitchell, Chief Nutritionist attached to the Ministry of Health has challenged farmers to not only produce high quality crops, but also in high enough volumes to help sustain and build a healthier Saint Lucia.
She highlighted the importance of buying and eating local food produce and also urged CFL farmers to look towards alternative and more sustainable farming methods as well as crop diversification.
Mrs. Hunt Mitchell made the comments while addressing the company’s annual registered farmers meeting under the theme “Building a Healthier Nation with farmers”.
As the island’s largest buyer of Agriculture produce and leading supermarket retailer, much of what the nation is fed comes from the company’s supermarket shelves and in that context CFL’s Managing Director Martin Dorville has acknowledged the important role which the company plays in this regard.
Mr. Dorville says CFL recognises that opportunities exist for agriculture, especially local produce to contribute in a more profound way to better the health of the wider population. He noted the importance of working with farmers and schools in agricultural development, while simultaneously educating customers about Food Nutrition and Healthy eating as some of the main priority areas for the company.
“This is an area that our Produce Department has been making some inroads in, and we now want to focus on this in a more strategic way. Working in partnership with our farmers, we want to position ourselves to make a real difference through targeted initiatives that enhance Agricultural production, Food Nutrition and Health and place greater focus on the production of traditional crops which are becoming more and more scare due to among issues inconsistencies in the weather patterns. We also understand the value of sensitizing customers on issues relating to healthy diets and lifestyle and so we continue to work closely with farmers, schools, our staff and the Ministry of Agriculture in that regard”.
No doubt the company’s efforts at encouraging farmers to increase the production of crops that contribute to food nutrition is beginning to bear fruit. A visit to the produce section of many company’s supermarkets (Super J IGA, Mega J and gl food market) would reveal kale, cayenne peppers, guavas, rosemary, basil, among other locally grown crops.
In fact many of CFL farmers are using the company’s Farmer’s Loan Programme to engage in production of these types of crops to ensure that customers have readily available quality local nutritious fruits and vegetables.
Minister of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries and Rural Development Honourable Moses Jn. Baptiste who was also present at the meeting acknowledged that “If we are not food secure, it poses a problem for national security and so the whole world is focusing on food security”.
He therefore commended CFL on recognising the importance of continuously meeting with and engaging farmers on various aspects of food production including food nutrition. He was very pleased by the importance attached to increasing customer awareness of health issues and healthy eating, as it relates to Agriculture.
Apart from Health and Nutrition, CFL’s meeting with farmers touched on a range of issues including cost management, better production planning for product availability, farmer certification and issues relating to praedial larceny. Nutmeg, cloves, thyme, cilantro, pigeon peas, collard greens, watercress, beets and packaged hot peppers were among the opportunities for growth as a result of customer demand.