Saturday, February 16, 2013

Food Security is Supporting Your Local Food Industry

The UK as a case study:

In a previous blog post, I expressed my admiration for the relationship people living in the English countryside have for locally produced foods and their local village high street. Based on my experience people in the countryside support their local industry simply because they take great pride in their community, in their environment and the things they consume. Some would immediately tell you about the importance of reducing food mileage to the environment and that the eggs they had for breakfast was sourced from the local farm shop whose farm is just down the road.

What I also like about the village high street is how local shops displays with pride the goods they have for sale with full details about the source of these goods. They take pride in the fact that what they have for sale was sourced locally, as they display the name of the farms, farmers and location where the food comes from, traceability is key, for example one would see signs saying things like Genuine Modbury or Devon or British Lamb, they would even declare that the lamb was sourced from a South Devon farm as opposed to West Devon or just simply Devon farm because they know their customers like their foods to be sourced locally and I am sure if someone displayed a sign saying Imported American Beef they would be laughed out of the village.

Out of all the local shops on the high street, I think the local butcher holds a position of greater importance. The local butcher plays a very traditional role on the high street and takes that importance and that role very seriously. The local butchers normally wears a standard butcher’s uniform always smartly dressed, a very white shirt, some with a tie, a smart butcher’s hat and an apron to finish off the Ensemble. Most are professionals at what they do, some even own and operate family run shops that may have been passed down from generation to generation. They will tell you with pride of their family’s connections in their profession and how close the family has been in the food production and distribution business over the decades, if not centuries.

When you run a small family business in a close nit community, a place where everybody knows your name, the place where you grew up with the people around you and a place where you meet the people around you in the local pub after closing then reputation and goodwill is of paramount importance. You go the extra mile to make sure your customers are given nothing but the best regardless of what you are selling and if you are good and consistent at what you do then you will earn a reputation as the finest supplier of your product not only in the village but in the county and across the land.

The Farm Shop is another concept that I just love and adore, what a wonderful concept and out of all the farm Shops none is more special than the Organic Farm Shop. I can easily spend an entire day just hanging out and wondering a farm Shop. This is when the owner of a farm decided not only will he sell to shops and supermarkets in various areas but will open a shop attached to the farm where the fresh produce from the farm is sold. The concept has grown to the point that various Farm Shops also have restaurants in them, cooking the finest foods from locally sourced ingredients, hiring the finest chefs, making the best pastries, cooking the best piece of Organic meat and vegetables. If the farm did not supply a certain product like meat then the farm shop would sourced their meat and milk from other local farms that meet their standards.

Farms have also found new ways of distributing the things they produce, not willing to sit down and depend on people coming to the Shops or rely solely on marketing their products to major supermarket chains and local high streets shops, farms are now selling directly to customers via the internet. Traditionally a farmer might develop a relation with people in the community and agree that at a specific interval they would drive to the houses of their customers in the immediate area and deliver fresh produce from the farm, so straight from the farm to your door.

"Many of us assume that buying locally sourced food is expensive and will break the bank. In fact it will save you money but more importantly improve your health, for you and your family.
Think buying local meat is more expensive than your supermarket? Think again... Claire from Devon Fit Camp visited Gribbles Butchers Ivybridge to find out more." Food Mileage!!

They have now extended this concept by creating a Food and Vegetable Box delivery system where customers would log on to their Internet website and make their orders directly from the farm. It is now fashionable to get your box of fruit and Veg with moist soil still attached as a sign of farm freshness. Farmers would head into the field with a list of orders and build these boxes to order and when I say list I mean a mobile application that alert the farmers in the field to build a box for a specific order base on customer requirements. The Box delivery system have also been extended to the sale and distribution of cheese, eggs, meats and fish as people try to get their foods as fresh and organic as possible from a source they know and trust.

This is Food Security because it provides the customers with greater control over where their foods comes from, this represents at most two degrees of separation as the local high street food suppliers are the only entity between the source of the Food and the Customers. The Farm Shop and the Farm Box Delivery System is a direct line between the Customer and the Source. This is Food Traceability at its very best, if you have a problem with the food then talk to the farmer, or talk to the local butcher who talks to the farmer. Normally the High Street supplier gladly displays the source and contact detail information of his food supplier because his customers feel better knowing that what they are eating comes from the farm down the road, they know the farmer, heck they meet him down the pub from time to time for a pint.

The current food contamination scandal involves Big Supermarket Chains, those massive entities that are one stop shop for everything including the kitchen sinks and gasoline. Their aim is to move everything as fast as possible and as cheap as possible. They need to sell a lot in order make a profit, Quality is not that important to them, they are more than willing to sacrifice quality because they need to move goods fast, they buy dirt cheap and sell little higher but low enough to undercut the prices of the local high street shops. It is not uncommon these days to drive through high streets and see shops boarded up as the mom and pop stores just cannot compete.

The current food contamination scandal also involves processed package foods, foods that came from a factory somewhere and whose ingredients originated from a farm somewhere … at least we hope. The degree of separation for these type of foods is almost impossible to figure out, since they are still trying to trace the source of the contamination  Ever since their invention, Big Supermarket Chains have been a threat to the local high street family run businesses, since low income consumers like a bargain and are willing to risk food quality and safety to meet the family budget. The people who are affected by the recent food contamination are mainly people living in big urban cities and low income areas. These people have no idea what goes into making their microwave Findus Beef Lasagna, well now they know …. Horse!

The current Food scandal is  driving more and more people to rediscover the value of the local high street and the importance of the local butchers. The people are going back to locally sourced, healthy organic foods and are staying away from the Big Supermarket Chains and Imported Mystery Food and this is a wonderful thing. The organic movement must seize the day and spread the word that natural is better, organic is better, local is better for sustainability.

I would like my fellow Jamaicans to cherish the things we have, support our local industry because food security is a vital part of our existence regardless of what the first world countries are trying to tell you, they are just trying to make money at our expense, they do not care what we eat or how we live so long as we make them richer.

Jamaica is perfect for Agriculture Production our land is green and lush with fertile soil, and more than adequate water supply if managed properly. We have frequent tropical rain fall and continuously flowing rivers and streams and with constant tropical sunshine that feeds our rich, natural resources. I am convinced that the natural law of comparative advantage is on our side and if applied properly we can create a sustainable system. With the right imagination and innovation we can grow enough food to feed our population for a long time to come.The circumstances surrounding how we got to this blessed land was horrific but we inherited one of the most beautiful, fertile landmass on the face of this planet, our little rock nice.

1,800-pound Jamaican Brahman bull from Dr Wellington's Y.S. Farms in St Elizabeth

During a recent discussion on facebook a young lady stated “Life gives you Carrot… Make Carrot Juice”, she was referring to the fact that Jamaica is blessed with so many things and yet we devalue these things and want what other people have, even if it means our destruction as she declared that we were too Red Eye (envious)… “Life gives you carrot… Make carrot Juice” sums up everything I believe and have been fighting to get across to anyone who would listen. It is one thing to make the best use of what you have first and then turn to what others have, as a way to supplement our lifestyle but another to disregard completely what you have, to devalue it and value the same thing from others. In Jamaica’s case “Life gives us Carrot but we turn around and buy carrots from other countries” leaving our carrot to rot in the fields, thinking that other people's carrot is superior to our home grown carrot.

Our Rivers and Seas are Full of Life, food everywhere

One minute we have a thriving Dairy Industry contributing to your Gross Domestic Product and the next cargo ships of subsidized dried milk powder turn up at your ports and wipe our natural organic milk off the selves thus forcing our dairy farmers to dump their milk at the side of the road and slaughter their dairy herd.

One minute we have acres upon acres of oranges growing in the fertile soil and tropical sun, then the next some fool decided he is going to import Orange Concentrate from countries that don’t even grow oranges and whose product past through so many countries that it is impossible to trace the actual source and our citrus farmers are forced to watch their oranges fall off the tree and rot where they fall.

One of the biggest scams of the 21st century is the world’s implementation of the Free Market Concept, the theoretical concept itself is sound but the implementation is disgustingly flawed. This is the old Bait and Switch routine, where they sold the theoretical concept of Free Trade to any half educated fool who would listen and then implemented (switch it with ) a variation that looks nothing like original as they created various loopholes in the implementation that guaranteed the Developed (first World) countries the clear advantage. The theoretical concept of Free Trade did not factor in Power, Greed and Corruption used by the Developed (first World) countries as they circle the wagon and engineered the system to service them, this entire planet is about them, we exist to service them, we exist on their terms.

Jamaica Catch of the Day

Youlanda is 16 years old Pig farmer
Jamaica Denbigh Agricultural Show

Box Veg Riverford farm UK

Friday, February 15, 2013

Food Insecurity causes Food Contamination

I am a massive advocate of the “Consume what you Produce and Produce what you Consume” principle, especially with regards to agricultural and food production. I think a country like Jamaica should get most of what it consumes from local sources and only import the things it needs, not want and that are required for the production process. This principle also affords us greater control over our food supply as it allows maximum control over the entire process from the farms to the processing plants and finally to our tables.

Events taking place in the United Kingdom have only served to support my argument even more, the British woke up to find out that the beef they thought they were consuming was in fact horse meat and in some reports donkey meat have also entered the food chain. It also seemed that finding out what was in the food was the easy part but trying to locate the source or sources of the contamination was another matter altogether, they are still trying to follow that tangled web. The French and several other European countries have also tested their so called beef products and found some containing as much as 100% horse meat. As per the French the contaminated meat must have passed through several countries before finally hitting the supermarket shelves and then the tables of unsuspecting consumers.

This ladies and gentleman is what happens when we have Food insecurity, this is what happen when we have lost control of our food supply system and hand control over to countries and cultures that are completely different from our own, with different sense of moral standards where the line between right and wrong is not stringently policed and adhered to. This is what happens when we leave the process to unscrupulous, greedy people who will do anything for money.

There have been many debates online regarding the merits of eating horse meat and I say to these people, you have completely missed the point, however no one have yet defended the merits of eating Donkey meat. The issue is not the type of meat, it has nothing to do with the merits of eating horse, cats, dogs or monkey but the fact that consumers went to the supermarket to buy beef that was properly farmed, raised well, fed well and supposedly slaughtered properly but was giving cheaper horse or donkey and heavens knows what else made its way into the food chain which was completely compromised. That ladies and gentlemen is what you should be worried about, if people wants to eat Horse or donkey or Human meat for that matter, then fine but we need to control how these animal live and how these animals died and we need to make sure these foods are properly labeled so that the conscientious consumer can make the proper selection, you may not care what you eat or where your food comes from but most of us do! Not only did horse meat enter the food chain but it is reported that horse meat with Low levels of a potentially dangerous drug Bute, was found in horse meat destined for human consumption.... Found this time, only because we were looking for it this time.

This is the age old problem of greed and the age old scamming technique of Bait and Switch in which cheaper horse, donkey, cat or dog meat is bought by greedy meat suppliers and sold as higher price beef, not even the school lunch and hospital was spared. The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have been investigating the declining number of horses for sometime. the ISPCA claimed that a criminal gang have been stealing horses and selling the meat as Beef.

European Meat Prices:
  • Horse: 700 to 800 Euros Per Tonne
  • Beef: 3500 to 4000 Euros Per Tonne
  • Pork: 2500 Euros Per Tonne
Jamaica is no stranger to food contamination, a recent report showed that Jamaica import’s 80% of the food it consumes, most of which is already grown right here in Jamaica and as such we are undermining our local food sources, in a sense we are kicking away the legs from under our farmers and food processors simply because Jamaicans believe that if the food is imported then it must be superior to our local homegrown foods. We have given up control of our food production system to countries we have no control over.

In the past Jamaica Imported:
  • Cheap counter flour from Europe laced with insecticides, 79 persons died.
  • 1,500 Metric Tonnes of “Contaminated Rice” filled with 'dried out' rodents and frogs from the United States of America.
  • 22.73 metric Tonnes of “Contaminated Red Kidney Beans” (red peas), valued at more than $2.6 million from Belize containing “Rodent Filth”.
  • Old not fit for human consumption Chicken pieces from the United States of America
  • Pink Slime from America to make our Jamaican Beef patties

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Puppets and Puppet Masters, IMF in Control

In January of 2010 the IMF announced that its was in agreement with the Government of Jamaica for a bailout loan of US$1.2 Billion under a 27-month Stand-By Arrangement. By 2011 Jamaica’s IMF agreement derailed as Jamaica did not sit the review test for quarters ending December, June and September and the IMF has said it would not go to its board until Jamaica is able to get the programme back on track, as such Jamaica was unable to drawn down any more money from the fund.

Under the 27-month agreement with the IMF, Jamaica had agreed to reduce the public-sector wage bill from 11.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) to 9.5 per cent of GDP. Prime Minister Bruce Golding told Parliament that the requirement could lead to approximately 10,000 job cuts, which I think was a conservative estimate as some experts predicted close to 30,000. The IMF declared that Jamaica has not been moving fast enough to affect necessary reforms under the 27-month standby arrangement and so they will let off no more funds.

The big question then is, why did the Bruce Golding led Government stopped the IMF reforms dead in its tracks? What did the IMF want them to implement, was it so harsh, so terrible that they did not have the stomach or the backbone to continue with the IMF requirements? Whatever it was it was too much of a bitter medicine for them to deliver... so exit Bruce Golding and enter Andrew Holness.

In Oct 24, 2011 Andrew Holness was sworn in as the New Prime Minister, not long after he declared that the country will hold General elections on December 29th, just few months after taking office. Constitutionally the Hon. Holness did not have to call election and I thought it was a very bad idea at the time, Andrew needed time to make his mark but he was in a peculiar position with the IMF on one side and the Jamaican people on the other. Instead of taking the bull by the horn and do what had to be done he called an election thinking he would either first secure a mandate from the people or maybe he just did not want the job as head Bitter Medicine deliverer hoping that job would go to the PNP. Mr. Holness election campaign was based partly on the Bitter Medicine that was to come and the PNP campaign was based on the Good times that were to come.

Now the PNP have the job of delivering the toxic medicine even though they promised Good Times but only a fool would believe that good times was in our immediate future, knowing the state of our economy and society. Deep down in our hearts we knew for many decades we were heading in the wrong direction, spiraling out of control but throwing caution to the wind and living the high life felt way to good and addictive. However I do believe the Jamaican people have been crying out for structure and leadership for a long time, they wanted someone to stop their destructive behavior and lead the way, they wanted an intervention but our Political class is way too selfish for that, so they feed into the destructive behavior as a way to secure votes like a drug dealer to a crack addicted whore.

Honesty and Reliability are important factors in life, it is a requirement needed for the proper development of any society but members of our political class are neither Honest or reliable, they are just lying, blood sucking opportunist.

I agree with the Private Sector and the Opposition with regards to the Stealth Planned Tax Package. We understand that The IMF will have certain demands from Jamaica before any funds are released, they always do, so when the government announced a big broadcast, everyone tuned in to watched, waited to hear what was in store for us. Knowing the IMF and the state of the Jamaican economy "With a debt-to-GDP ratio of above 140 per cent, a persistent and perennial low-growth or no-growth economy, a crushing debt stock of J$1.7 trillion, and consistent under-performance on revenue collection" …we knew it would be both a Bitter and Toxic medicine and as such we braced ourselves, drink a beer and expected the absolute worst. One thing I know about Jamaican people, they do not do Austerity. They don’t mind getting a loan, always up for a big money let off but do not believe they should jump through hoops or swallow bitter medicine, goes against the very principle of the Let off Culture.

So After the broadcast I said to myself, is that it? A friend of mine said when is the other shoe going to drop because that cannot be it? The Government introduced a new JDX (Jamaica Debt Exchange) programme requested by the IMF (called it: NDX (National Debt Exchange)). The Finance Minister touched on some potential projects to help boost growth and declared that they were hoping to have a public sector wage freeze agreement. After which the Private Sector declared that they were all on board willing and ready to do their part, shoulders to the grind stone. The opposition is never on board it is the very nature of a Jamaican Opposition regardless of which party is in opposition. Our opposition is only concern with opportunities to oppose and expose, stick it to the government… they live for the “Got You Moments”, so there will never be any holding of hands and tackling national issues out of patriotic and national pride. The Jamaican political class and diehard supporters practice the Scorched Earth Policy, if my party is not in power, tear down the country, mash it up, leave no stone unturned until I regain power.

It was a very Underwhelming speech by the PM and the Finance Minister which is why the Private Sector was chuffed, the private sector prefer their bad news light not heavy and disruptive, however the broadcast did not deliver much by way of substance. The TVJ Panel of experts was more informative, although I did not understand the need for them to call Jason Abrahams in Florida, sound like they woke him up, he had nothing to contribute but nothing Jamaicans love more than a person with an impressive last name and Job title working for a big company in North American to babble on and on about absolutely nothing …seconds into his chatter I was thinking… “Man come off a di phone and go back a yu bed”.

The next morning the Government went into Parliament and announced a $16.4-billion Tax Package, plus an additional $11.4 billion from the NHT (National Housing Trust) over the next 4 years.

The Government met with:
  • The Opposition before the broadcast and no mention was made of the Planned Tax Package.
  • The Private Sector before the broadcast and no mention was made of the Planned Tax Package.
  • The Trade Unions and no mention was made of the Planned Tax Package.
  • The Jamaican people on a nationwide broadcast and still no mention was made of the Planned Tax Package.
Clearly the time to announce/introduce this Planned Tax Package was during the nationwide broadcast after introducing it to the stake holders in the pre-meeting. Then go into Parliament and discuss the details with the Opposition and the country.

I am sorry but The Government was disingenuous and I cannot understand why, to what aim, what were they trying to achieve, what outcome did they expect from this deception? I don’t even know if we can call it deception because it looked like pure stupidity to me. What is the difference between being upset the night before or in the morning, plus the night before we were expecting to go to bed upset after hearing the bitter medicine details?

Those of us old enough understand that the IMF have us firmly by the short and curly because once you invite the IMF into to your house then they are now in charge of your house, so just be Honest and Open, let the chips fall where they may, we the Jamaican people caused this mess and we the Jamaican people must sacrifice to clean up our mess. Trying to Stealth in a Massive Planned Tax Package was the wrong thing to do and this Government looked foolish in my eyes. I am not even sure I can call it stealth anymore because it was announced in parliament and to the opposition, so I will just stick with Pure Stupidity.

The Real
World Boss
Having lived through IMF I told you youngsters not to go back to the Fund, I was told how cheap the loan was, but these youngsters are only looking for cheap, easy, let off money, they expected to get something for nothing which is what fishing is all about. This my dear friends is what the IMF does, its terms are Harsh, Hard and Fast, they can tell you to lay off 40,000 workers without batting an eye or implement massive Tax Packages at moments noticed, It is the IMF way or the highway and knowing the state of Jamaica it will only get worse, their terms are always Austerity and I have yet to hear or see any growth programme from this Government. The IMF is now in charge, they are the ones dictating our financial policies, the elected Government is just the conduit through which their power flows.

The Political Class
It amazes me also that this Government was anti-tax and anti-JDX when the previous Government was pro-tax and pro-JDX and it equally amazes me that the Opposition is anti-tax and anti-JDX when they were pro-tax and pro-JDX when they were in power. I never know if the opposition is making a statement base on Solid Economics Facts, with unselfish logics and commonsense or just opposing for opposing sake. I would like to think they are making a solid economic factual statement but knowing our political parties they say one thing in opposition and say something else when in Government. Audley Shaw on CVM sounded like he was campaigning. However I am happy to finally hear from the opposition, having heard way too much from those muppets in the G2K. The moral of the story is, be careful of Political Posturing while in opposition because you never know what will happen when you become the Government. Be mindful of what you say and do because it might come back to bite you in the butt.

I watched “Simon Says” on CVM the other night as he read statements from members of both political parties while they occupy different positions of our Government structure over time and it got me thinking... They can curse something one minute and defend the same thing the next. It just confirms to me what I knew all along but hoping that someday it would change, that politicians have no Principles, because principle is not wishy washy or opportunistic, it is a firm, stand your ground thing and the measure of a person. I think we are in bigger trouble than any of us care to think about, not because the economy is rubbish, not because the exchange rate is rubbish, not because of high crime rate but because those members of the political class are Spineless, Lying, deceitful, little invertebrates totally void of any principles and no good will come of it. For the first time in decades I genuinely fear for the future of my beloved country, each time I look and listen to members of the Government and Opposition.

Unless the Opposition can come up with something radically different, promoting personal responsibility and moving us in a different direction then I do not see any other option. It was the Opposition that brought the IMF back to our beds and then failed to implement their requirements. The IMF is not trying to create a growth program, it just knows how to chip away at what it sees as the problem, Public sector wage bill too high? Fire the lot!, Government need more Revenue? Increase taxes! Take the public sector for example, ever since I my eye deh a mi kneel, I have been hearing that we need to reduce the size of the public sector, every jack man knows it is bloated and costing us too much, people are just employed for employment sake and there is no efficiency in the sector. Back in the 90’s Douglas Orane was commissioned to investigate the sector and identify waste and mismanagement. The Government paid lip service to it and when the report was finally delivered the Government shelved it, none of the recommendation was ever implemented to my knowledge. We did not need the IMF to tell us to lay off 30,000 people, we could have laid off 1000 public sector workers , per year with an hire freeze for the past 30 years or 2000 over 15 years. A lot of our problems have been around for decades and we have done nothing to deal with it over time. The Political class does political tip toeing around the problems and the people.... well they just love and enjoy their merriment ...from Dancehall to Jazz and Reggae Concerts, to hot Observer Page 2 moments at various events. Jamaica is the Matrix, that movie must have been written with us in mind, reality means nothing, perception is everything, every body lives in their own creation of Lah, Lah Land where they bask in their own self-importance... look at me, look at me, I am big and large.

I have heard diehard supporters of the opposition declaring that it is now time for us to do one of our world renowned demonstration, that it is time to go on a slash and burn, looting and shooting rampage and I wonder to demand what, how will that fix anything, a rampage on that level will only make matters worst. It is about time we separate some of our problems from the political arena to the national arena and deal with the problems as one people, united before the world.

Meanwhile over the many years, No Mass Rally or Protest have ever been organized against:
  • Government Corruption, Lies and Empty Promises
  • Increasing Murder/Crime Rate
  • Economic Mismanagement and Hardship
  • Crumbling and/or missing infrastructure
  • Child abuse/murder on rise in Jamaica
Which tells me mass riot and demonstration is only done when the opposition wants to become the Government not because they care about the lives of the people.

We have done nothing to address the problems in our society and as a matter of fact every Government have tried not to take any bold step fearing they may upset the electorate who provides them with power and glory but we cannot continue like this, we must change. The name Jamaica was meant for bigger and better things, a shining example to all but we have lost our way and derailed our journey to greatness. It is now time to correct the error of our ways.