Food security and reducing the food import bill are among the main issues the Caribbean Supermarket Association (CSA) intends to tackle. Speaking at the CSA’s inauguration at Krave Restaurant in Marabella yesterday, CSA’s chairman Rajiv Diptee explained,
“The Caribbean Supermarket Association is a private-led initiative where we are seeking to find solutions within the value chain to ensure that food security remains a critical priority and create import substitute strategies for how we see a reduction in the food import bill.”
He said they are also working towards making the prices of goods and services more accessible, especially in the present situation where they are facing continuing challenges with the shipping cost, foreign exchange and other issues.
Diptee said in the interim they have assembled a team to work with the private sector organisation, various arms and ministries within Caricom.
Noting that the food import bill in Trinidad and Tobago is TT$5 billion and US$6 billion regionally, Vasant Bharath, vice chairman, said there is a significant amount of foreign exchange leaving the region and building foreign farms and farmers’ livelihoods.
While the Caricom heads have committed to strengthening food security, Bharath said there are cross-border challenges, including transportation between the islands, which need to be addressed.
“I am very happy to be part of the Caribbean Supermarket Association simply because it is a private sector organisation that will continue to light the fire and continue to prod and probe to ensure that governments meet the kinds of commitments that they are making.”
Vernon Persad, CSA founder, said a culture change in consumer consumption patterns is vital to reducing the food import bill.
“We sell what the public demands. However, if the taste preference, the palate changes from salmon to talapia or to some other local fish then we will move the volume of salmon off our shelves and replace it with what the customer demand or what they prefer,” said Persad.
Diptee suggested that they work on a culture that takes into consideration nutrition, marketing and making products more appealing to consumers.
Noting that land grabbing, land threatening and praedial larceny are major issues in the country, Diptee said, “I heard that from the farmers themselves, in fact, they came up with a slogan arm the farmers. That’s something that tells you just how serious the problems are with farming in this country, which has so much potential.”
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