ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Residents are being urged to “put their hands to the plough” and start growing their own food to help stave off the effects of soaring food prices.
A day after residents were warned to brace for a hike in the cost of food, as a result of an increase in shipping rates, extension officer in the Ministry of Agriculture Owalabi Elabanjo is calling on all citizens to begin cultivating their own produce.
On Sunday, major shipping company, Tropical Shipping added US$125 per 20-foot container and US$250 per 40-foot container among other hikes in goods coming from the continental US and Canada.
According to the corporation the increases were necessary because of changes in fuel prices. However, as the news surfaced consumer officials here said an increase in food prices is imminent.
Elabanjo said everyone should be willing to participate in such an undertaking to help achieve food security in Antigua & Barbuda.
“People need to come together and realise that they too have to have put their hands to the plough. They have to participate. If you don’t have a yard encourage your neighbour who has space and both of you can work together to achieve things,” Elabanjo said.
He said if this can not be done in backyards, then adequate support should be given to the local farmers.
“Dialogue with them (farmers) so that you can buy food that is locally produced to reduce your food bill at home. Once we buy local, farmers would tend to plant more to supply the demand,” he added.
As part of the thrust to achieve food security in Antigua & Barbuda, the government and the Food Agriculture Organisation launched the National Backyard Gardening Initiative.
Now known as National Backyard Gardening Day, the ministry continues to lead the initiative aimed at getting the population to produce four million pounds of food annually in their own backyards.
The programme began in 2008 and now, approximately 2,500 families are registered.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)