Hon­our and re­spect the small farm­ers

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION - THE ED­I­TOR, Madam:

WORLD FOOD Day is cel­e­brated an­nu­ally on Oc­to­ber 16 to mark the 1945 es­tab­lish­ment of the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United Na­tions.

In view of the COVID-19 pan­demic and this year’s theme, ‘Grow, Nour­ish, Sus­tain. To­gether’, we must ac­knowl­edge the value of all the agents of food se­cu­rity. In times of tragedy and dis­as­ter, the readi­ness and at­ten­tion of first re­spon­ders are in­dis­pens­able to res­cue and pre­vent avoid­able fall­outs. The first re­spon­ders of food pro­duc­tion are the providers of agri­cul­tural pro­duce and live­stock and those who ven­ture to reap the seas. They are cru­cial un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances but more es­pe­cially so in the face of the cri­sis oc­ca­sioned by the cur­rent pan­demic.

In cel­e­bra­tion of World Food Day, those with the high­est re­turns in the line of food se­cu­rity must en­sure prac­ti­cal ac­knowl­edge­ment of the in­dis­pens­able role and dig­nity of the small farm­ers and op­er­a­tors of fish­ing vil­lages. Pope Fran­cis, in his re­cent en­cycli­cal Fratelli Tutti (Broth­ers All, FT), points out that the cur­rent pan­demic has demon­strated that hu­man dig­nity must be the cen­tre and pil­lar for build­ing the struc­tures needed for so­cial and eco­nomic ad­vance­ment.

This is an in­vi­ta­tion to fos­ter sol­i­dar­ity by re­mov­ing dis­par­i­ties such as the wide gap of favourable re­turns be­tween our small-scale pro­duc­ers and ven­dors and those who do the value-added pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion. By ex­trap­o­la­tion from Fratelli Tutti, the mar­ket­place can­not re­solve this prob­lem. There­fore, Chris­tians and per­sons of good­will, hav­ing re­gard for the dig­nity of small stake­hold­ers in food se­cu­rity, must pro­mote an eco­nomic model that en­hances favourable re­turns for those at the start of food pro­duc­tion and in­clude them in the for­mal mar­ket econ­omy.

Our pol­i­cy­mak­ers must pro­tect small, in­for­mal pro­duc­ers from eco­nomic stag­na­tion by pre­vent­ing the kind of un­reg­u­lated de­vel­op­ment that leads to un­com­pet­i­tive en­vi­ron­ments. The hus­tle men­tal­ity, driven by the need to ‘eat a food’, fre­quently cre­ates over­crowd­ing, which di­min­ishes the fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity of po­ten­tially prof­itable en­ter­prises.

The chal­lenge is for big busi­nesses, which rely on and ben­e­fit from the agents of ini­tial pro­duc­tion, to es­tab­lish a scheme that redi­rects a de­ter­mined per­cent­age of prof­its from end prod­ucts and trade to en­hance the sta­tus and op­er­a­tion of those who pro­vide the means of their busi­ness op­er­a­tions and suc­cess. This is the time to fos­ter sol­i­dar­ity, to al­low small farm­ers and fish­er­folk to ben­e­fit more from the fruit of their labour.

MOST REV­EREND KEN­NETH RICHARDS Arch­bishop of Kingston Ro­man Catholic Arch­dio­cese of Kingston

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