Belizeans have been eating garbage, literally and figuratively, and the question is why. Of all the countries in the Caribbean, it was always felt that Belize and Guyana had the most potential for food production. Belize and Guyana had two main ingredients – large, fertile tracts of land and relatively small populations.

One problem in Belize was that one section of the population, the dominant section until the middle of the twentieth century, was committed to harvesting trees for lumber from the Belizean forests. The non-woodcutting sections of Belize’s population, primarily based in the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts, were led into farming for export in the early 1960’s. That was the sugar cane crop.

Until the age of American television entered in the early 1980’s, Belizeans had prized the “fat” look, having no idea that fat was heavily responsible for diabetes and high blood pressure. Belizeans were addicted to eating certain fattening foods and also canned foods. The health costs were, and are, enormous. People were shipping the food to us that was making us sick. Until American television, we didn’t know any better. Fat is bad. Lean is mean.

In a country like Belize which is not self-sufficient in food production, the cost of eating healthy is expensive. From the time of the woodcutters centuries ago, it has been the merchants in Belize who get rich. One of their main revenue sources is food importation – into a country which should be exporting food, not importing same.

When the time came for the majority part of the Belizean population to move from woodcutting to farming, they resisted, for various reasons. It would have taken a massive government effort in education, subsidies and incentives to get agriculture off the ground, partly because the merchant lobby and the merchant mentality were too strong. The politicians made a big fuss about a “Green Revolution” in the 1960’s, but the merchants and their contraband mentality regained control.

We can see that the Mennonites set up shop at the macro level, and the immigrants from our neighbouring republics have succeeded with food production at the micro level, but you are looking at two sets of people who came out of an agricultural background. Shunning agriculture, Belize roots people fled to the United States’ inner cities. For a while, they thought they were thriving.

But food has caught up with Belizeans abroad. The United States government is printing trillions of dollars in seeking to prevent a financial collapse. The inflation is inevitable, and it will be severe. Food will skyrocket in cost. In America, the inner cities will feel the pinch.

In Belize, land-blessed as we are, food costs should not be our bogeyman. In fact, we should be making money off food production. In order to reach the point where we run food in our country and our surroundings, we would need a revolutionary government. In Belize, it is the merchants (not to mention drug traffickers) who finance political campaigns, not the farmers. Elected politicians here owe more to the merchants than they do to the farmers.

Oil has complicated things in Belize. In our discussion on food in Belize so far, we have not specifically mentioned food from the sea – marine food and aquaculture. The fact of the matter is that after we began seeing American television, Belizeans began realizing that our fish was the most healthy and nutritious food we had available. We had always taken fish and other marine products for granted in Belize. Let us assure you of this, however, that offshore drilling and potential oil spills can wreak havoc in our marine food habitats.

Food, Jack. This is an important conversation. It may become the most important conversation of all.

Power to the people.

Amandala Editorial

Edited by Marty (01/27/09 08:48 PM)