by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Over 80 per cent of the food the citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis consume is imported, said Kyle Flanders, Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture et al., on the topic of the Federation’s Food Import Bill.
The amount of food imported by the Caribbean region has been a topic of discussion for decades, with CARICOM and, by extension St. Kitts and Nevis creating policies and opportunities to reduce the import bill and thus the reliance on other countries for our source of nutrition.
CARICOM started the 25 by 25 Agenda, where countries across CARICOM have encouraged investments in Agriculture to reduce food import bills by 25 per cent by 2025.
According to the Agriculture Minister, Hon. Samal Duggins, that means cutting the approximately EC$140 million annual food import bill by 25 per cent – some $35 million – for St. Kitts and Nevis annually.
In 2020 the food import bill dropped by 20 per cent because countries hoarded their typically exported goods to secure food in their country before any other country, thus threatening the food security of the Federation.
The Agriculture Assistant Secretary shared some figures related to priority crops imported into the Federation and their associated costs from 2017-2021.
Apart from millions spent on certain crops imported into the Federation, Flanders shared that $12 million is spent on mutton imports alone.
Flanders reminded the public of the untapped local markets when considering the monies spent on food imports. Farmers, both plant-based and livestock, have viable markets to tap into to create a sustainable food supply in the Federation.
“Those are some of the statistics that we have out there that paint a somewhat grim picture of how much money is leaving the economy and how much money [people] can actually capture if they are to go into the sector. So if you think the sector has no money, think again. Imagine you get a little piece of that $17 million in poultry; that would be something significant for someone to have a viable business.” – Kyle Flanders, Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture et al.
The transition to more locally sourced produce and meats would help to combat external shocks like those seen in COVID-19 and the Russian/Ukraine war, which affected the export and shipping of goods either through hoarding or through an increase in shipping costs making food, what should be an essential, a luxury.