Local nutrition should be the staple food, NOT rice

Letters to the Editor

THANK you for allowing me an opportunity to respond to the article appearing in the Island Sun Newspaper of Thursday 29th November.

The article referred to a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister, RH Mr. Sogavare, which stated in the headline, local nutrition should be the staple food, NOT rice for Solomon Islanders. I do not think many would disagree with this. Most probably however on the basis that rice importation is a cost to the country and substituting it with locally grown alternatives would reduce this cost. That makes sense. Blaming rice for NCD’s as an excuse to introduce a tax does not.

The Deputy Prime Minister, as Minister of Finance is about to tax rice imports. The intention is to raise revenue, and again, this is the privilege of the government. The red herring here is that the argument is the impending tax will be introduced for health reasons. This explains why we are seeing so many attacks on rice lately in the media. If you throw enough mud, some will eventually stick. An old political tactic being used here once again. My issue here is not about the tax. It is about misleading media about rice and health.

Deputy Prime Minister, why rice? There is tobacco, a much greater threat, there is sugar, another much greater threat, how about using alcohol in your headline, noodles perhaps, Coca-Cola and other soft drinks maybe? Need I go on about consumables with a much greater contribution to NCD’s than rice? NCD’s include cancers, heart failure, strokes amongst other things, it is unfair to formulate communications such as that in the Island Sun, where it would be possible for the uninformed to interpret all NCD’s are a result of eating rice. This is clearly far from the truth.

Rice is an easy target due to its profile. But rice is a naturally occurring carbohydrate, the same as locally grown products such as sweet potato. Carbohydrates are essential in any diet as they contribute to energy and the effective functioning of the body, including the brain. Carbohydrates, including rice, form part of a healthy, balanced diet.

There is an issue with ALL carbohydrates however, and that can be over consumption. When this occurs the body can store excess to be used for energy later, which will take the form of fat. If the amount of energy (calories) taken in is more than that exerted, the fat will continue to build. This may lead to obesity and obesity may result in a NCD, such as Diabetes or heart problems.

Therefore, responsible suppliers of rice will always recommend a balanced diet and that we should all regularly exercise. Remember, energy in versus energy out is the secret. These are the answers to the potential issues created by over consumption of any foods, not just carbohydrates and especially not just rice.

The Deputy Prime Minister is correct in one area, Brown Rice does carry enhanced nutritional value over white rice, due to maintaining the fiber from the bran layer and cereal germ. Again, most responsible suppliers will provide Brown Rice as part of their offering, as SolRice does. The demand for it however remains very small and we would like to see this grow. Where the DPM was wrong again however, is that Brown Rice is not $600 per bag as claimed and is only slightly more expensive than white rice per kilo.

Editor, I hope this letter brings some balance to the increasing misrepresentations that continue to appear in the media. Deputy Prime Minister, increase revenue through additional tax by all means, but please be sincere when explaining why the price of rice will increase for the people of the Solomon Islands in the New Year, the government needs the cash.

Nick Ellis


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