Jamaica has an Agriculture Minister named Roger Clarke. He is what Jamaicans would call ‘full-bodied’, ‘big boned’, or in modern slang, ‘fluffy’. If I had been the Prime Minister, I would have chosen someone whose figure did not offer so many easy chances to fling stones, despite his very good credentials in agricultural activities. A man of his girth may well eat rice by the acre, but don’t tell that to your people. That seems Romneyesque, if I could be so unkind.
Even though I’m not ready to accept that Jamaica has a major problem with hunger and food availability, I won’t argue that many people find it hard to put good meals on their plates. Examples abound of people who have this difficulty daily. Jamaica was honored recently for being among 38 countries to have met UN hunger eradication targets earlier than set. So, it seems that we have another of those conundrums with food appearing to be abundant, yet many people claiming hunger, and statistics suggesting that things are getting better. We may also be witnessing situations where people hide behind their social status and pretend that all is well, though they struggle to eat well. I watched a rerun last night of a current affairs program, which looked at the high incidence of skin bleaching in Jamaica, especially amongst some socioeconomic groups, sometimes spending relatively large sums on lightening creams when they struggle to spend money on food or other basics.
Jamaicans will quickly put themselves up as sufferers. Music is often used as the platform for protest. Songs about hunger often gain popularity.
Minister Clarke seems to be too ready to appear out of touch with the so-called sufferers. Right now, he’s having his “let them eat cake” moment, by telling Jamacans not to worry about getting chicken back to cook (about J$80-100 a pound) but should get ready to buy more-expensive meat like oxtail (J$300-400 a pound).
Most North Americans and Europeans may roll their eyes or snigger at the thought that chicken back or ox tail could become such hot potatoes–excuse my mixed metaphor. Aren’t these the stuff of so-called ‘bizarre’ food TV shows? But, these foods are still staples in Jamaica, and in many other parts of the Caribbean. Let’s not get into whether we eat food that others in the developed world may see as only fit for their dogs, these things are much desired here, so don’t take lightly the concerns.
The opposition JLP are crowing that chicken back was much cheaper and more plentiful when they were last in power. The ruling PNP know that their feathers can be ruffled by either an indifferent attitude to the underlying issues or the appearance of inaction, if prices and supplies don’t improve. We may see a rerun of the French revolution, but food riots could easily erupt. PM Portia Simpson-Miller puts herself up as a champion of the poor: the economy in general and food in particular may knock her medal chances as her feet are put to the fire.