Rising food prices and the retaliatory civic unrest spreading around the world has seen the Government and the Opposition issuing similar warnings of a developing crisis posing a major threat to Jamaica.
Budget watchers would have scored points for the Opposition's Omar Davies who landed the first punch on this subject in his presentation last Tuesday, while analysts are still considering the merits and demerits of Agriculture Minister Tufton's proposals made the following day.
While Mr Tufton's speech demonstrated detailed homework and preparation, one of the major planks of his proposals contained in a massive grow-and-eat cassava drive, left unclear his reasoning and conclusions that eating bammies and related products offers a fix for nutrition.
A positive effort
To the credit of the Government, the cassava strategy does represent a positive effort to decrease dependence on food imports and provide a substitute for wheat flour, a self-sufficiency approach missing from the raft of solutions being brought to bear on the crisis by some other countries that appear to be focusing singularly on price controls and subsidies.
On that note he scored heavily with his emphasis on self-sufficiency to be manifested through a national food planting drive, the welcome return to and expansion of a school garden programme, an urban backyard garden programme, and the implementation of technology-driven programmes and food security initiatives.
The thrust of the minister's argument was the necessity for the nation to increase agricultural output and to seek self-sufficiency in food. This is in keeping with a UNESCO report issued in the face of the developing food crisis and supported by 60 countries, which called for increased local food production using sustainable and environmentally friendly methodology.
It was in the nutrition field, however, that Tufton failed to do a convincing job, as the jury is still out on the merits of cassava as a value product in terms of protein and other nutrients.
We would like to hear more on this from the experts in the field as much more than a ministerial decree will be needed to mount the type of cultural campaign, backed up by solid data, in order to persuade consumers accustomed to one of the most varied and appetizing culinary habits in the world, to accept any dramatic change in their staple diets as addressed by the cassava option.
The Government and the Opposition must meet as one on this and the related issues.
There is growing tension around the world as concerns over the cost of living, and in some extreme cases the cost of survival, create social unrest in economies already battered by higher fuel costs.
UNESCO estimates that price hikes and shortages affect developing countries more than industrialised nations, and activists and policymakers have warned that the unrest will spread unless there is urgent action taken to stave off this crisis.
In that regard, the fabled king of an era long gone had no qualms about a similar situation facing his kingdom, nor his response to his chief-of-staff's warning that the peasants had revolted and were making a food march on the palace.
"Double the guard on the pantry", was the monarch's immediate response. The world has no such room in which to move.