Established in July 2014, the Association for the Promotion and Transformation of Inter-tropical tubers (APETTIT) has decided - given the alarming finding made about the agricultural sector across New Caledonia (where it originated), Melanesia, Oceania and all overseas French communities and departments - to create a series of useful books, partly gastronomic, to promote and support the agricultural sector, the tuber industry the importation of these products.
To this end, a first volume devoted to yams (dioscorea spp), the neighboring root vegetable of the potato, is currently being created.
The agricultural sector, despite being described as essential or even strategic to our food security continues to decline for over 40 years throughout these regions.
In New-Caledonia :
the recent industrial development associated with urbanization has led to a strong preference for imports rather than the consumption, production and processing of local food, including those known as native foods (from indigenous communities). The development of the nickel industry and urbanization around the main centers of employment has absorbed a large amount of farm labor. In this context and with today’s unprecedented economic pressure, the number of farms and farm employment has continued to collapse.
Over the past 10 years (2002-2012) in New Caledonia:
- 1879 farms have disappeared,
- The farming population has declined by 38%
- The agricultural area has decreased by 27%.
The farming population accounted for 23% of New Caledonia’s total population in 1991, compared to 5% in 2012. Between these two dates, New Caledonia’s farming population reduced by two thirds, from 40 311 to 13,200 people. In 2008, the "Agriculture, hunting, forestry, fishing, farming" sector represented only 1.5% of New Caledonia’s GDP compared to 3.5% in France in the same year.
Although the value of this sector increased from 5.7 billion to 10.2 billion XPF from 1993 to 2008, this increase is insignificant when compared to the overall importation of agricultural products which in 2011 amounted to approximately 37 billion, demonstrating New Caledonia’s large food dependence, unlike in mainland France where the sector has a trade surplus. Public lectures, held by the South Province (equivalent French department), in October 2014, revealed the actual size of New Caledonian agriculture regarding imports. It is only 15% by volume, meaning that 85% of New Caledonian food is sourced from outside the country.
The first so-called traditional agriculture on customary land (owned by the native settlers) is no exception to this fact as many small farms have disappeared.
Farms occupied more than 32 600 hectares in 2012, compared to 68,800 hectares in 2002. Some regions saw a 60% decrease of farms on customary land. Some early cultures had lost in 10 years up to 40% of their land, as is the case for tropical tubers.
Despite a significant farming population - including the Iles Loyautés (the Loyalty Islands) (1 of 3 provinces in New Caledonia), where it accounts for nearly 28% of the population - the fact remains that:
- One in every two unemployed people resides in customary land,
- The unemployment rate is between 30 to 40% in the North and Island provinces as well as in areas such as the East Coast and the North, while it is officially only 14% across the whole of New Caledonia, - 25% of the population of the Loyalty Islands province has deserted the region in the past 10 years.
These facts are detrimental to possible economic development, especially in rural areas, and also to the continuation of core values within the Kanak culture (refer to the charter of the Kanak people proclaimed on April 26, 2014).
In Melanesia (the region where New Caledonia is found) :
the absence of an imports substitution policy has led to increasing food dependence, which in 1955 was an early concern among experts working in rural areas, which alarmed the lack of initiatives taken by the government. Since then, virtually nothing has been done and the situation we have today has resulted from the combined effects of a lack of action and the aggressiveness of large commercial businesses who are establishing a counter economy. In Vanuatu, the children are fed Australian rice as soon as they go to school and their diet changes rapidly. Some now complain when they are given taro or yams. At this rate, future generations will consume less local produce and farmers will have to reduce their local production.
In the rest of Oceania, most of the country remains heavily dependent on imports. Indeed, large numbers of countries in the Pacific region are still not self-sufficient in basic foodstuffs, such as the Marshall Islands, for example, that according to FAO imports 90% of its food.
Development strategies adopted for the past twenty years - which relied mainly on the development of plantation crops for export - are now being challenged in most countries in the region. In Vanuatu, the failure of these strategies is the most obvious. In a country where the soil and climate conditions, and the availability of arable land, are advantageous, the growing food dependency, low profitability of planting crops, and an increasing exodus from rural areas twenty years after independence, attest to this failure.
It is necessary to implement a new policy for agricultural imports and the processing of local products. New ways of processing and promoting local products must be swiftly adopted to avoid continuing with an approach where failure is obvious based on the statistics recorded for the past twenty years. Moreover, protectionist measures would probably, according to experts, impact rapidly on rural development and would slow the exodus to the cities.
Regarding the rest of the French overseas communities and departments (Réunion, Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana etc.) :
which are mostly located in the tropics, the agricultural sector's situation is the same: 78% of food is imported. Production from small local farms has become marginal. In 2009-2010, a food aid program for the overseas departments was even implemented by the Government.
As such, the Association (APETTIT) would like to create momentum to reverse this trend by boosting local production through consumption.
The purpose of our book series is to awaken the interest not only of consumers but also the farmers, manufacturers and investors, making them aware of the many available opportunities at both the agro-industrial and culinary level.
Each book is prepared according to a specific structure divided into 4 chapters:
- The first chapter provides a general description of each product (origin, geographic distribution, number of species, history, different names, etc.)
- The second chapter promotes potential processing options through various processing methods, product types, machinery types and manufacturing processes etc.
- A third chapter presents the product in the New Caledonian context (production, seasonality, cultural practices, marketing, consumption etc.)
- The fourth and final chapter presents the product in new culinary forms from different cuisines: Asian, European, Native American and African through 365 recipes, allowing you to cook throughout the year if the mood takes you!
However, in order to achieve our goal and the implementation of this project, our Association wishes to appeal to the crowdfunding to cover costs relating to the latest project, namely for printing.