IAN FERGUSON: Private sector must help to improve food security


Ian Ferguson

Food security and sustained agricultural production are ongoing conversations that developing countries are having more frequently as we face the mounting challenges of war, drought and famine. The Bahamas, given its vulnerable position as an estimated $1bn per year food importer, must seriously engage in this conversation.

In the 2022 edition of its annual report on the state of global food insecurity and nutrition in the world, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 811m people worldwide suffer from hunger.

While hunger may not be an immediate threat due to our reasonably high gross domestic product (GDP), the leakage of foreign currency earnings as a result of our high import bill is a great concern for economists throughout the land. How do we produce sufficient domestic food yields to help alleviate our astronomical food bill? How do we produce this yield, in a sustained and economically viable way, so that it makes sense for farmers in the business while encouraging younger counterparts to enter the industry?

Our article this week focuses on some practical ways that businesses can help to address these and other questions relating to food security in The Bahamas.

1 Reducing food waste and food loss

It is estimated that one-third of food production is lost. Food waste and food loss is worth about $750bn globally per year. Businesses, not just those in the food and beverage industry, can help make the connections required to ensure that less food is wasted. Something as simple as partnership with feeding programmes, children’s homes and housing for the aged helps to address the wastage issues.

2 Support Improvements to infrastructure

Optimising infrastructure also ensures that less food is lost and improves food security. This involves looking at the entire food chain. Sufficient persons or machines must be available for sowing and harvesting; the crops must be protected against weeds, diseases and pests; storage must be in order; and transportation links to markets or end users must be available. Businesses can support training initiatives for farmers, as well as loans and grant funding for improved infrastructure development support.

3 Promoting fair trading practices and a commitment to buying local

It is not just large commercial companies that need access to food markets. Small farmers must also be paid a fair price for their products. Farmers working together in co-operatives have greater leverage to negotiate their purchase and sales prices, and thus make a better living and margins from their produce.

What is required in our local environment is a greater commitment to sourcing and purchasing local products, and giving them fair remuneration for their produce all the way up the food value chain.

• NB: Ian R Ferguson is a talent management and organisational development consultant, having completed graduate studies with regional and international universities. He has served organisations, both locally and globally, providing relevant solutions to their business growth and development issues. He may be contacted at tcconsultants@ coralwave.com.


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