Coronavirus should redirect attention to food security

We are witnessing the spread of a new pandemic in the 21st century. Now less than four months since it first erupted, this emergency is rocking the world.

This situation is having a greater impact on economies that are excessively dependent on one sector, such as tourism, petroleum or agricultural raw materials. The structural, long-term antidote to this is diversification.

Approximately 20 countries in the hemisphere are net importers of food. Each year, the Caribbean region alone draws a cheque for 6 billion dollars to feed 44.5 million people. The situation calls for food security strategies and greater efforts to increase self-sufficiency.

We must again reassess the role of family farmers, who, ironically, although pivotal in ensuring food self-sufficiency, are the adjustment variable in times of economic uncertainty.

Our countries must increase the production of major crops, while boosting their resistance to drought, pests and diseases; and we must be increasingly rigorous about controlling the indiscriminate use of certain agrochemicals.

The well-being and food security of our people are at stake, which means maintaining the world order, as we know it. This situation makes the delivery of effective and first-class technical cooperation an imperative.

Manuel Otero – Director of the Inter- American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)