By Gary Hatigeva
PEOPLE of this country need to shift their mind set from imported food products, particularly rice, as our staple food, which it should not.
Rice should in fact be an emergency form of food source, says Finance Minister.
The Finance Minister was making this statement when responding to questions raised on the government’s policy intents to curb the fast growing cases of Non Communicable Diseases (NCD), which is now regarded as one of the major causes of deaths in Solomon Islands.
“On the NCD we move ahead, and the government has started to address some of the things that are highlighted regarding this issue, and seven out of ten deaths in this country, is because of the non communicable diseases,” the Finance Minister said.
He said the government through his ministry, has taken measures on this and increased taxes on those food products that are not good for the people’s health, and put high risks to the country’s population into being affected by NCD.
He added that it was an economic risk the government has taken to put such measures on these sectors, which hosts a revenue base that Solomon Islands also relies heavily on.
Sogavare stressed that it is not an easy thing to do, but the longer term strategy is to shift the country’s population to the alternatives, and that would mean if there is need to import rice, then the healthy option would have to be for brown rice.
“But note that for a bag of brown rice will cost around $600, but that compared to a bag of 20 kg white rice it will only costs around $200, and so it is also important to note that healthy food is expensive.
“However, the easiest option is for our people to shift to local dietaries and we do not need to buy rice.
“We probably need to shift the mindset of our people because they are used to the understanding that rice is our staple food.
“I think that is not the right message to our people on this product, which it should in fact be an emergency food when natural disasters strike and people do not have local food access and supplies, with the reduction of tax so to bring in these products,” the Finance Minister further added.
He then suggested that people are pretending to be poor in this country, and that the poverty status of Solomon Islands needs to be redefined.
“This is because people who starve just decided to be starved, but that does not mean there is poverty because local food options are available in vast amount and free”.