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World Food Day 2012 message by Hon. Moses Jn Baptiste, Minister for Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries

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Minister for Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries, Moses Jn Baptiste

Agricultural cooperatives key to feeding the world

Tue, 2012-10-16 – Since 1981, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has officially adopted a different theme each year in order to highlight areas needed for action and to provide a common focus to World Food Day (WFD) observances, for the purpose of raising awareness and understanding of approaches to ending hunger in the world.

“Agricultural cooperatives – key to feeding the world” is the theme for 2012. It has been chosen to highlight the role of cooperatives and farmer organizations in improving food security and contributing to the eradication of hunger. Interest in cooperatives and rural organizations is also reflected in the decision of the UN General Assembly to designate 2012 the “International Year of Cooperatives.”

In his message to mark this year’s WFD, United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva noted a reduction in national investments in agriculture and official development assistance, that have prompted millions of small producers to find creative and innovative ways to cope with these limitations. Despite the commitment of many countries to improve livelihood and eradicate hunger worldwide, concrete political programs, and financial support around the world still remains inadequate.

The theme chosen, highlights the many concrete ways in which agricultural cooperatives and other producer organizations can help with food security, generate employment, and lift people out of poverty. Various events are organized worldwide to mark WFD. Today, October 16, 2012, a wide range of programs is organized at the FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. Other UN agencies, government offices and academic institutions worldwide also host conferences, workshops, exhibits focusing on specific issues related to food production, distribution, and security in their region or country.

In St. Lucia we have chosen to stage a farmer organization awards ceremony on the evening of Tuesday October 16, World Food Day, at the NSDC Centre Vieux-Fort, to sensitize the public at large and in particular members of our twenty plus agricultural organizations, most of them cooperatives, regarding the important role that cooperatives can play in increasing agricultural production and productivity, improving livelihoods and eradicating hunger. This is in addition to becoming part of the movement that is happening all over the world today.

All this is necessary, because food security has been a national and global issue for several decades now. It is hoped that this WFD will serve to further motivate the concerned government agencies, non-government entities, and private organizations to examine food production and distribution processes and practices, with a view to contributing to the eradication of hunger and famine. Households and individuals are likewise urged to reflect on their food preparation and consumption practices and habits to avoid food wastage and spoilage.

In St. Lucia there is a significant imbalance in what we grow and what we eat. Much of what we eat comes from imported foods, resulting in an annual food import bill of over EC$350 million! Much of these imported processed foods are known to contribute to the many illnesses and diseases affecting our people. This situation calls for action at the national level. The call to action is for all institutions, all Government departments, all families. The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries and Rural Development will play a major and leading role in this call to action role and is vigorously trying to improve its position to tackle the issue of food and nutrition security for St. Lucia.

Our actions include:-

o Finalizing the restructuring of the ministry so that our focus will be creating successful agribusinesses at the farm and co operative levels;

o Complete the drafting of a long overdue Food and Nutrition Policy which will receive input from other agencies- health in particular. In this regard we are nearing completion of a National Food Production Action Plan which will be revealed to the public by December 1;

o New focus on Farmer/Fisher co operatives to improve their operations and to foster an integrated rural development focus;

o Making marketing of our local food a focal starting point in the planning of our food system;

o Create a system of land allocation to serious interested farmers so that we may expand on our production;

o Focus on sustainability and low external input systems;

o Finding creative ways to stimulate growth in the livestock sub-sector, especially in ruminants;

o The expansion of the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurial Programe to encourage young people to be involved in agricultural production;

o The building of an Agricultural Diagnostic Facility to address research regarding crops, livestock and fish production;

o A Disaster Risk Reduction Project to address risk mitigation measures in agriculture and to establish a system for the long-term sustainable management of Black Sigatoka in plantains and bananas;

o An Agri-Enterprise Facilitation Project to encourage value added activities in agriculture.

These developmental efforts are expected, over time, to contribute to everyone having access to sufficient and affordable quality food on a daily basis because Saint Lucia as a sovereign state has a core obligation to take the necessary action to mitigate and alleviate hunger, even in times of natural or other disasters.

In essence, our cooperatives and associations must play a more significant role in fighting hunger, which is the most extreme form of poverty, where individuals or families cannot afford to meet their most basic need for food.

This Government has pledged to place Job Creation at the core of its Term. I pledge our Ministry’s contribution to this action. We will continue to improve the skills of farmers and fishers so that their business practices may realize profits. and we may generate wealth.  We are preparing the sector to receive new businesses at the individual farm level and at the medium enterprise level (in that regard we have assigned an officer who is dedicated to the development of the Farmer and Fisher Co operatives).

We will make Food Production more attractive so that the many jobless St. Lucians may see opportunities to get themselves sustainable jobs. What I am really saying to you is that we are also the private sector, the many farm enterprises, whether chicken farms, fish farms, rabbit, goat, sheep, vegetable farms banana farms, plantain farms, we are private businesses . We use resources as to inputs utilize labour, land and management to produce food and services! And our farmers and fishers if given the right incentives through their co operatives will help to turn this economy around and create jobs in a significant way.

This sums up the focus of our Ministry. From Castries South to Anse La Raye to Choiseul, Laborie, Vieux-Fort North and South, Micoud and Dennery in the East, Babonneau in the north all of these are constituencies with major farmer and fisher small businesses employing hundreds of St. Lucians…we need to make it work!

I seize this opportunity to congratulate the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, its officers and members led by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and FAO Director-General, Jose Graziano da Silva on the occasion of Word Food Day 2012.

I also wish our most valued farmers, fishers, foresters and agriculturists in general a productive World Food Day 2012. To all our beloved citizens, supermarket owners, restaurant owners, hoteliers and visitors, thank you for eating our local food and fruits, thank you for supporting our farmers and fishers. Your business helps to keep hundreds of families out of poverty.

Thank you for joining the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries and Rural Development and the international community in celebrating World Food Day 2012.

Eat the good quality food that we grow, join a Farmer or Fisher Cooperative, help us to feed St. Lucia and help us to create more and more jobs.

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