Business Policy ‘Eat What You Grow’ and Lisa Hanna’s Perspective in Jamaica and the Caribbean By Kenroy White Posted on June 3, 2023 7 min read 0 Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Linkedin Food security is a pressing concern for nations across the globe, especially in the Caribbean region, where many countries heavily rely on food imports. For decades, the concept of “eat what you grow” has been at the forefront of agricultural strategies, promoting self-sufficiency and reducing dependence on imported food. However, Member of Parliament Lisa Hanna’s recent remarks have sparked a debate, questioning the relevance of this longstanding policy. Here, we delve into the concept of “eat what you grow” and explore the implications of Lisa Hanna’s position on Jamaica’s agricultural sector and the wider Caribbean. However, for transparency, it is important to highlight the full context of her contribution. Understanding the ‘Eat What You Grow’ Concept The ‘eat what you grow’ philosophy encourages countries to prioritize domestic food production to achieve food security and foster economic development. It emphasizes the consumption of locally grown and culturally significant food, supporting small-scale farmers and rural communities. By reducing reliance on imports, countries can mitigate the risks associated with global market fluctuations and ensure a steady supply of nutritious food for their populations. Benefits of the ‘Eat What You Grow’ Approach Food Security: By promoting self-sufficiency, countries can safeguard their food supply and reduce vulnerability to external factors such as trade disruptions, and rising global food prices. Economic Development: Emphasizing local food production stimulates rural economies, creates employment opportunities, and enhances income distribution. It fosters a resilient agricultural sector and reduces reliance on foreign currencies for food imports. Cultural Preservation: The ‘eat what you grow’ concept preserves traditional food systems and cultural heritage, strengthening community bonds and fostering a sense of identity. Lisa Hanna’s Perspective During her contribution to the Sectoral Debate, Lisa Hanna expressed the view that the ‘eat what you grow’ policy is no longer relevant in Jamaica’s present reality. She argued for a shift towards export-oriented agriculture, focusing on equipping farmers with the necessary resources to meet international demands. Hanna’s position highlights the need to adapt to changing global market dynamics and capitalize on opportunities for agricultural exports. Implications of Lisa Hanna’s Position Market Expansion and Economic Growth: Shifting towards export-oriented agriculture could unlock new market opportunities, increase foreign exchange earnings, and stimulate economic growth. By focusing on high-value agricultural products, such as specialty crops and unique local offerings, countries like Jamaica can position themselves as suppliers of premium goods in niche markets. Challenges of Competitiveness: To compete globally, countries need to enhance productivity, ensure adherence to international quality standards, and invest in infrastructure and logistics. This shift would require substantial investments in farmer support systems, value-added processing, and access to international market information. Balancing Food Security and Export-Oriented Agriculture It is crucial to strike a balance between export-oriented agriculture and domestic food production to maintain food security. The focus on exports should not overshadow the importance of ensuring affordable, nutritious, and culturally relevant food for local populations. While Lisa Hanna’s perspective challenges the relevance of the ‘eat what you grow’ concept, it is essential to critically evaluate the implications of both approaches. The ‘eat what you grow’ policy has been instrumental in promoting food security, local economic development, and cultural preservation. However, exploring export-oriented agriculture can open up new avenues for economic growth and job creation. Striking a balance between the two approaches is key, as it allows countries to enhance food security, preserve cultural heritage, and tap into global market opportunities. Moving forward, policymakers, stakeholders, and communities in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean must engage in thoughtful dialogue, considering the unique challenges and opportunities within their respective contexts. By fostering collaboration and adopting a nuanced approach, the region can forge a path toward sustainable agriculture that meets the needs of both domestic and international markets, ensuring food security, economic prosperity, and cultural vitality for generations to come.