Goan food stock situation
In this rain deficient year and with Karnataka staring at a possible drought situation, the government recently ordered its 34,000 temples in the state to do special ‘poojas’ to invoke the rain Gods. It cost the government around seventeen crores and although the opposition did criticise the decision, the ‘poojas’ eventually took place. Some churches in Karnataka also organised special prayers on their own.
However, the Government of Goa seems to have not given any such instructions to perform ‘poojas’ or special masses for a normal rainfall in Karnataka. Considering the fact that Goa depends on quite substantially on Karnataka for its food imports, rainfall in these areas is actually more essential for our food security.
Goa this year might just about have normal rainfall, but thanks to visionless politicians and their mis-placed priorities, a near normal rainfall in Goa is just not good enough to meet Goan food requirements.
How come a state like Goa with abundant rain, fertile land, a healthy forest cover and the fourth smallest population is unable to meet its own food requirements? One can understand if Goa was a desert and had no choice but to import its food supplies. But, with vast natural resources at our disposal and a historically self sufficient Goa, it is unacceptable that Goa should now stare at possible shortage of food supplies.
This year’s food production in Goa will not meet the normal demand and with the neighbouring states on the verge of being declared drought affected, Goa is likely to face high food prices. The house wife dearness allowance declared by the Chief Minister to tide over the already high food prices might not be enough to even buy peanuts.
Politicians are too busy winning elections to think about Goa’s food security. The day the first bag of rice or the first chicken was imported to Goa, a thoughtful politician would have raised a red flag on the system and gone about finding reasons how imported food from other states were competitively priced. Instead ,we allowed food imports to thrive and refused to address the un-competitive Goan food market.
Although the current administration has started to address this problem recently, politicians will have to think beyond subsidy and frame policies, which will make Goan food abundant enough to be able to even export it to other states.
Goans deserve a fair price for the food they purchase. And although prices depend on demand and supply, sometimes they are subject to manipulation, especially when people resort to creating artificial shortages in local markets. For example, the government of Goa pays diesel subsidy to fishing trawler owners in the hope that they will pass on the subsidy to us . Unfortunately, the first seasonal catch of the prized solar shrimp is transported out of Goa. A shrimp fished in Goan waters needs to be sold first to Goans and the excess should be allowed to be exported. Meanwhile, the Chief Minister has jumped the gun and projected some very high fancy tourist numbers. No point increasing tourists to Goa if every hotel and restaurant consumes ingredients from the neighboring states. It means that a tourist visiting Goa is indirectly driving the agricultural economy of neighboring states. If all these ingredients could be produced in Goa which is possible, then we could safely say that tourism is truly benefitting the Goan economy. Tourism should be encouraged only when Goa is able to produce food abundantly so as to feed the Goans and the tourist alike. You don’t invite guests at home and then run to your neighbor to ask for food to feed the guest and because your guest ate all the food, you don’t keep your family hungry. You invite guests only when you have abundant food to feed your guest and family together.
In order to make Goa self sufficient in food it will have to fix its busted food and farming systems. It is time educated Generation Next start entering in this field notwithstanding the stigma this kind of work is usually attached with. Scientific solutions are important in a land scarce Goa to increase agricultural productivity. Hopefully Goan politicians motivated by the increase in their salaries will burn the midnight oil to find solutions to make Goan food security their top priority. Land acquisitions at market rates should not be done only to build unnecessary airports, sometimes it should be done for agricultural purposes also. By the way water is the next oil; it’s a shame that in a rain abundant Goa, politicians have not figured out a way to utilize it in the best possible manner. Building gutters and throwing this water into the sea might one day come to haunt us when the world faces serious shortage of drinking water.
If today everything was hunky dory in Goa and we had abundant food supplies, as good neighbors we could have offered some food supplies to states in drought and create tremendous goodwill, alas prayers is the only thing we can offer at this time.