curb that craving for foreign goodies
A drought in the United States has turned more than half of all US counties into disaster zones, the US Department of Agriculture reported last week.
It sounds a warning for what may yet unfold for local consumers when they get to the cashier's line at their neighbourhood supermarket.
Agriculture experts in the US have blamed excessive heat and a devastating drought that's spread across the Corn Belt and contributed to rising food prices.
United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared disaster zone designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states last Wednesday because of damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat.
The states are Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.
They may seem like distant places to most of us.
But what we may not be considering is the impact the drought is inevitably going to have on food prices.
Trinidad and Tobago's food import bill has been too high – at around $4 billion- for a number of years.
But higher prices at groceries, restaurants and even vendors' stalls along Charlotte Street in Port of Spain or the Chaguanas Market have put a dent in the quantities of cash Trinis spend on imported produce and food.
Our craving for all things foreign, including food, continues unabated.
This may soon come back to bite us as grain and corn prices in the United States are rising fast, especially as supplies seem more and more threatened.
In this week's cover story, economist Indera Sagewan-Alli sounds a warning to consumers about the importance of imported grains.
"What do we use in place of grain. A backyard garden will only impact if you are prepared to substitute flour with local carbohydrate sources. So the extent to which people are prepared to substitute domestic sources in places of flour will determine that impact. But most of the time, despite increases in flour prices, flour is still usually a cheaper alternative for the average consumer than yam and cassava, etc. Telling people to eat fruits and vegetables is not viable because they are not natural substitutes," Sagewan-Alli says.
The government says it has plans to reduce food imports and get consumers thinking about the wholesome goodness of local substitutes like cassava.
But it will take a long time for that conversion to happen.
In the meantime, consumers would be well advised to think more before they reach for all those goodies that will add to their waistlines and shrink their bank accounts.