Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Onion Shortage in Jamaica

Approximately four years ago Jamaica experienced an onion shortage. At the time of the shortage there was an effort made to encourage and increase the local production of onion to offset any such shortage in the future. However, we are back to square one as was evident this past weekend as there was another shortage of onions on the local market. As a result the price of onions was artificially higher than usual as the market adjusted to the economics of demand and supply. A pound of onions usually cost about $80-$100 per pound, however, over the weekend the price doubled reaching as much as $200 per pound.
As a country we are too dependent on foreign imports to satisfy local food consumption. In 2010 it was reported that Jamaica imported approximately $US4Million worth of onions annually. There is a very high demand for onions locally as the average Jamaican household apparent has had a love affair with this popular seasoning. Jamaicans consume about 12,000 tonnes of onions each year, however, the country only produces a fraction of the onions required for local consumption. In fact, some data suggest that Jamaica is only able to grow less than ten per cent of the overall consumption of onions. We cannot continue to use scare foreign exchange to import more than ninety per cent of onions. The same holds true for other imported foods.  Jamaica spends a staggering one billion United States dollars on food imports.
Yes, we can substitute onions. However, let us not lose focus. We need to drastically cut our importation food bill.  A country’s development cannot be complete unless food security is adequately addressed.  Food security is a matter of National Security.

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com