In 2007 under the JLP administration, the island found itself severely deficient in rice.
It was a wake-up call regarding food security. Minister Karl Samuda at the time had to be running over the western hemisphere to seek rice to satisfy the Jamaican consumers.
The American producers were latching on to their output solely for their local consumption as production fell that year. Now it is another food security cry concerning rice, only that this time it is fake rice made from plastics that has allegedly been sold to the Jamaican consumers.
While capitalism is the preferred economic system in the world, there is one global characteristic of this economic system – greed.
Greed is the reason why consumers in Mandeville have allegedly been purchasing and cooking plastic rice unknowingly. But who is to tell that counterfeit rice is not already saturating the kitchen space of the Jamaican consumer?
As if some importers have no scruples, people in this island may soon have health effects, perhaps even some form of cancer as plastic rice seeps into meals.
It appears that Jamaicans are not protected by the frontline state agencies such as Jamaica Customs and the Bureau of Standards.
Despite removing obvious corrupt officers in the 1990s, corruption and greed could likely remain. We hear how money passes under the table and how the Customs port gates have many “holes” despite tight security on paper only.
An understanding of rocket science is therefore not required to understand the possibility of plastic rice leaving the ports as money is a big incentive to look the other way in Jamaica.
In Jamaica money and connections have big talk and I believe just about anything can enter this country. Just talk to car importers and they will tell you that despite all the “security” at the wharves in Newport West their cars get broken into and radios and audio equipment are regularly removed.
This time food is too serious to play around. The government must track down the criminals and apply the full force of the law. Serious action must be taken against any Customs or other state officials who collude with importers or business interests to damage the health of our citizens.
We hope this is not another done deal with corrupt business interests as demonstrated with the gasoline imports which to this day, no one has been found guilty.
I personally am tired of living in a corrupt country whose corrupt scale keeps climbing every six months.
This plastic rice crisis can only however let us as consumers take local production more seriously. First our farmers , especially the yam farmers of St. Ann, Trelawny , Manchester and Clarendon should see a boost in sales, revenue and production. Our consumption of these local tubers are more beneficial to our health than imported white polished rice.
Secondly, our traditional geographical areas of rice production should see activity to revitalize the rice farming sector. It is no known secret that we had an important rice mill in Spanish Town, now replaced by a bus terminus and significant rice growing districts such as Tollgate, Llandillo, Pedro and other districts in low lying areas. The Ministry of agriculture should do everything to push local rice production.
I honestly believe this rice crisis is not a hoax and it will be interesting to see what transpires in the coming weeks and days.
Aboukir, St. Ann
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