Joao Barros Pereira
Goa's agriculture deserves more than a shot in the arm to survive; nothing less than a major transfusion is necessary and the photo-op of a couple of MLAs in the fields from time to time is Gollywood; it cannot be expected to be taken seriously by the Goan public unless our MLAs think the Goan electorate is not much more than an imbecilic mass of rotten meat with the right to vote every few years.
Giving subsidies to farmers, at this point in time, is a little like trying to apply a band-aid on a patient who is at death's end. And, that is about where we are today, with most of the food we eat - fish, fruit, vegetables, and water - all polluted!
Some people are asking, what's next?
With the high cost and shortage of labour, the unholy abundance of imported fish, vegetables and fruit from outside the state pouring into Goa is indeed an ill omen; local producers cannot hope to compete with the prices of the formalin-laced fish during the monsoon and the polluted food!
And, by the way, where is the state-of-the art lab which was promised by our Health Minister. June, July and August are the months for formalin-laced fish at their best. Bon appetite.
We need to upgrade agriculture to an agro-industry.
Farmers organic markets and restaurants in fields in villages is the need of the hour. We must have dedicated markets and organic restaurants in agricultural fields in Goa where local farmers are eligible to sell their chemically-free cooked food, fresh fruit and vegetables.
Hotels and the local population will gobble up the food. Rice, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, and so on, can be sold in these chemical-free markets and restaurants.
Farmers, in this way, will get a much greater profit margin when we add this marketing strategy to the subsidies that exist at present.
Agricultural land will become more valuable, and agriculture a more viable industry, and people will celebrate the burial of 16B.
This new policy makes the farmer the beneficiary of the land and our green Goa will not have to become a concrete Goa where politicians and builders can grow richer faster than a fenugreek plant can reach maturity. Best of all, the farmers won't have to dispose of their land to builders!
Organic farming is the way to go as Goa is also a major global tourism destination. Make no mistake, we do not have a choice. Health conscious people will flock to Goa if organic food is widely available in hotels and restaurants all over Goa.
Unlike the problem of garbage disposal, we need to eat food every day. Bottled water in Goa today is no longer a status symbol but
circumstantial evidence of how polluted our ground water is - a
warning to us to think twice, at least, if we don't want
to scare the tourists away.
Tourism is now the economic backbone of our State - a weak backbone - as mining is snoring and on life support. Unemployment,
which is on the way up, is an ugly fact in the lives of Goans who have to go abroad to earn a livelihood.
Kitchen gardens can be included in this marketing strategy:
individuals, too, should be allowed to sell their chemical-free fruit
and vegetable produce in the local farmers markets. It will help to
raise the standard of health in the village and provide additional
income to households all over Goa.
As the truism goes - we are what we eat - and so, let's eat right.