Agriculture must be the main plank in any effort to bring about a change in the dietary lifestyle of Barbadians.

This is the view of Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Lennox Chandler, who linked the increase in lifestyle-related diseases in Barbados to poor nutritional choices from imported foods which were either high in salt, fat, or sugar or all three.

Speaking on behalf of Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) Reporting Session and Reception at UN House, Marine Gardens, Christ Church, yesterday, he revealed that government was spending in excess of 40 million dollars per year in the treatment of chronic non-communicable diseases.

"The prevalence of lifestyle-related diseases has been linked to poor nutritional choices and a lack of knowledge of the benefits to be derived from the consumption of roots and tubers, fruits and vegetables. This has resulted in an unhealthy population which ultimately impacts on the country’s health care system."

Mr. Chandler stressed that farmers should be in the vanguard of efforts to bring about dietary change, however, he added that they could not do it alone and required the support of chefs, food scientists and food technologists.

The Deputy Permanent Secretary maintained that while the Ministry of Agriculture and the farming community had critical roles to play in this fight, he also called on consumers to become catalysts for change.

"Barbadian consumers…must create a demand for local produce. This demand will serve two purposes, in the first instance it will make available to our people a quantity of fresh local products of high nutritional value and concomitantly, it will serve to reduce our requirements for imported food and hence a reduction in our high food import bill," Mr. Chandler concluded.


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