KINGSTON, Jamaica – With just a month before the official start of the hurricane season, coupled with the present food crisis, at least two Jamaican relief agencies have raised concerns about declining food levels.
The relief agencies, which are essential in providing food and other items during disasters, say stocks of basic food supplies, such as rice, flour and other grains, have reached critically low levels.
Major Devon Haughton, commander for the eastern Jamaica Division of the Salvation Army, attributes the decline to an increase in the number of persons seeking food relief.
While he would not describe it as a ‘rush on the system’, Haughton said the increased demand was significantly impacting the Salvation Army’s food reserves that are earmarked for the needy during disasters.
Pastor Desmond Robinson, head of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, also said his organisation was experiencing a decline in food stock as more persons request assistance. “We are definitely going to need more in our reserve to help the increasing numbers,” he told The Gleaner.
As a result, Pastor Robinson said the ADRA has moved to forge links with farmers and families in various parts of the island to grow more food to meet the growing demand.
“To address the matter of food security, we are working with farmers in Portland to develop a tree-planting campaign,” he said. “We are also in the embryonic stages of developing greenhouse farming in the Rio Grande valley and in St Mary,” Pastor Robinson said.
Jamaica, like the rest of the world, has been experiencing a surge in basic food prices in recent months. This has been compounded by a shortage of grains, like rice and wheat, resulting in several countries restricting exports. The problem is compounded by skyrocketing fuel prices.
Countries like Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt and Haiti have seen riots, as people struggle to get enough food.
Major Haughton is, however, hoping that the situation in Jamaica does not reach such proportions.
“Some of the suggestions that have been made about us growing more of our own food locally I definitely embrace. I believe we need to look at how we go about using the things that we have and maximising the land space that we have,” he said.
The situation is different, however, at Food For the Poor. The charity’s executive director, Bradley Finzi-Smith, said ample food supplies were in stock, despite the global shortage.
“We are currently going through one of our regular food cycles,” he said. “God is good, so between our donors and ourselves, we do have food in supply,” Finzi-Smith told The Gleaner.
He expects that the charity would be able to assist should there be a disaster.