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Feasability of Aruban agriculture

We can't deny that locally and regionally grown fruits and vegetables are delicious. Just imagine fruits and vegetables as cashew, quinep (kenepa), tamarind, guavas, soursop, makapruim, mispel, and mangos, and ground provisions such as sweet potatoes, yam, and cassava to build up an appetite. But consumers, are we prepared to re-orient our choice from imported food to that of local food with all it's benifits?

As chairman of the Labor and Agriculture Committee in Parliament, I've had the opportunity to meet with local farmers and agricultural institutions. I have recognized their capability to produce for a considerable share of the local market in spite of the challenges and limitations they are facing. With the support of government and community they will be able to produce much more. ? Currently they are already delivering on a relatively small scale to the local market, however for some the price and access to water, as well as the tax structure on farming, is just too costly to expand their production. Local produce production is facing many challenges and obstacles. In order to achieve a substantial breakthrough to produce in more cost effective way to provide for larger scale local consumption, some solutions include protection as well as distribution through local store fronts. As I mentioned in my previous blog post, challenges also present opportunities, and I'd rather focus on the opportunities to achieve positive results.

So, in order to take advantage of an opportunity, we have to shift our way of thinking and transform our mindset. I believe that local farmers and especially the new generation of farmers are grasping this opportunity and heading in a direction that would really benefit our community in many ways. A case in point would be the local cultivation of 'Dragon Fruit', or Patiya. The Patiya is a cactus fig appearing in our region in a variety of forms. This fruit is full of antioxidants, which are beneficial in helping to protect your body against free radicals. The benefit of focusing on fruit and vegetables that have these relatively high nutritional and beneficial health properties is clearly worthwhile. Also, from a strategic viewpoint, comparatively small volumes of high-value products, have a much better chance of penetrating local or even international markets and as a result yield higher profits than concentrating on traditional produce. ?

Take for example the substantial effect the provision of exotic local food and drinks has had on tourism and how this has grown in recent years. Experience has shown that tourists adapt easily to locally produced rum and other alcoholic beverages, local fruit and fruit juices, and other local foods provided by locals, properly prepared and attractively presented. The same applies in supermarkets were consumers, slowly but surely, are purchasing larger amounts of locally grown fruits, vegetables or drinks. In order to answer the question if agriculture is feasible on Aruba, we must answer several other question first. Are we prepared to support the efforts for greater food self-sufficiency? How committed are we about achieving higher levels of food security in Aruba? Food security is defined as "the access for all people at all times to enough food for a healthy, active life" (FAO, 1996). In contrast, food self-sufficiency is defined as being able to meet consumption needs from own production rather than by buying or importing.

The purpose of this article is to start a debate on this subject and open up the floor for a healthy discussion. What's your opinion, suggestion or feedback?

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